Houthi land mines will be hidden killer in Yemen decades after war

Land mines scattered by Houthis will remain a threat even if the latest negotiations succeed in halting the civil war. (AP)
Updated 24 December 2018

Houthi land mines will be hidden killer in Yemen decades after war

  • Houthi land mines will remain a threat even if the latest push for peace succeeds
  • Houthi land mines and other explosives have killed at least 222 civilians

ADEN: They lurk under shifting desert sands, amid the debris of urban roadsides and inside abandoned schools, some set to go off at the lightest touch.
Land mines scattered by Yemen’s Houthi militia are largely unmapped and will remain a threat even if the latest push for peace succeeds in halting the conflict, those involved in their eradication say.
While the Houthis’ use of Scud and other retrofitted ballistic missiles has drawn attention for striking deep inside Saudi Arabia, their widespread use of mines represents a risk for generations to come in the Arab world’s poorest country.
“Mines today exist in every single area of Yemen,” Ousama Al-Gosaibi, the program manager for the Saudi-funded Masam demining project, told The Associated Press during a trip to the southern city of Aden organized by the Saudi military. “It’s not being used as a defensive (or) offensive mechanism. It’s being used to terrorize the local population across Yemen.”
Yemen’s war pits the Iran-aligned Houthis against the internationally recognized government.
More than 60,000 people have been killed in the war since 2016, according to the US-based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, or ACLED, which tracks the conflict. The fighting has displaced 2 million, spawned a cholera epidemic and pushed the country to the brink of famine. Millions wake up hungry each day, not knowing from where their next meal will come.
Among the dangers facing combatants and civilians alike are land mines. The Houthis looted government armories when they captured much of northern Yemen, including vast stockpiles of anti-tank mines. Anti-personnel mines also litter the country, despite the government joining a 1997 international convention banning their use.
A UN panel of experts said in 2016 that the Houthis had used land mines in their retreat from the southern city of Aden. Since 2016, land mines and other explosives planted by the Houthis have killed at least 222 civilians and wounded others in 114 incidents, according to ACLED.

“Mines today exist in every single area of Yemen. It’s not being used as a defensive (or) offensive mechanism. It’s being used to terrorize the local population across Yemen.”


“Due to the difficulty of obtaining accurate estimates, these figures are likely to make up a fraction of all mine detonations involving civilians in Yemen,” ACLED said.
Making things worse is the fact that a third of all health facilities in Yemen are closed, said Nasser Baoum, the government’s health minister.
“Mines have caused a huge problem,” Baoum told the AP. “It’s OK for an army person to be injured during battle or to be hit by a mine, but for a child to be hit while she’s in the field or on the way to fetch water, that’s a tragedy.”
Al-Gosaibi accused the Houthis of reconfiguring anti-tank mines that previously needed over 100 kilograms of pressure to detonate so that they require less than 10 kilograms — meaning a child could trigger the explosive.

 

 Yahia Al-Houthi, the former director of the Yemen Executive Mine Action Center, a Houthi-controlled de-mining center, acknowledged the militia use anti-tank mines but denied tampering with them to target individuals. He also claimed the Houthis never used anti-personnel mines, despite widespread evidence to the contrary.

Brig. Gen. Yahia Al-Sarie, a Houthi officer, said the Houthis only use land mines on the battlefield and not in civilian areas. “This is a war, so what do you expect us to do? Receive the other side with flowers?”
He said the Houthis had mapped the mines and would be able to remove them “in no time” once the fighting ends.
Al-Gosaibi accuses the Houthis of using Iran-supplied technology like infrared sensors and of adopting Iranian tactics like hiding bombs inside fake rocks. A report in March by the group Conflict Armament Research said roadside bombs disguised as rocks in Yemen bore similarities to others used by the Iran-backed Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and by Iran-linked insurgents in Iraq and Bahrain.

“It’s going to take years. You cannot rebuild Yemen without addressing the mine issue.”


Mines planted by the Houthis, some resembling a model previously displayed in Iran, also have been found in the Red Sea, according to a 2018 UN experts report. Those mines “represent a hazard for commercial shipping and sea lines of communication that could remain for as long as six to 10 years,” the report warned.
The Saudi-led coalition, Western countries and UN experts accuse Iran of supplying weaponry from assault rifles to ballistic missiles to the Houthis. Iran supports the Houthis but denies arming then, and Iran’s mission to the UN dismissed the latest allegations of “Iranian ghost weapons.”
“Yemen has long been awash with a wide range of weapons — including ballistic missiles — and Yemenis do not need Iranian weapons to conduct war,” said Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for Iran’s mission.
Saudi Arabia has alleged as many as 1 million mines may have been laid by the Houthis. Al-Gosaibi described Yemen as being the most-mined nation since World War II, based on his group’s estimate of the mines laid by the Houthis. Saudi officials have released pictures showing fields of deactivated land mines.
International groups dealing with land mines have been hesitant to estimate the scale of the crisis, given the limited information they have. Yemen is also littered with mines from previous conflicts.
“It’s going to take years,” Al-Gosaibi said. “You cannot rebuild Yemen without addressing the mine issue. It’s us on the ground first before rebuilding starts.”

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land mines and other explosives planted by the Houthis have killed at least 222 civilians and wounded others in 114 incidents


Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

Updated 21 January 2020

Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

  • Expert says sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in Libyan conflict unlikely

JEDDAH: With the conclusion of the Libya peace summit in Berlin on Sunday, it remains to be seen whether Turkey is willing to implement the provisions of the final communique and stay out of the conflict.

Ankara is accused of sending Syrian fighters to the Libyan battlefront in support of Fayez Al-Sarraj’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) against military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

During the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron voiced concerns over the arrival of Syrian and other foreign fighters in Tripoli, saying: “That must end.” 

Samuel Ramani, a geopolitical analyst at Oxford University, speculates that Turkey will not deploy more troops.  

But he told Arab News that a sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in the Libyan conflict is unlikely for the moment as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will remain present “until the GNA’s future is secured.”

Noting the difficulty of enforcing the Berlin agreement, Ramani said Turkey might not be the first mover in breaching a cease-fire in Libya.

But he added that Turkey will not hesitate to deploy forces and upend the agreement if Haftar makes any moves that it considers “provocative.”

The summit called for sanctions on those who violate the UN Security Council arms embargo on Libya.

Turkish opposition MPs recently criticized the expanded security pact between Ankara and the GNA, saying the dispatch of materials and equipment to Libya breaches the UN arms embargo.

Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.

Micha’el Tanchum, Analyst

The summit does not seem to have resolved ongoing disputes regarding the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline, a planned natural gas pipeline connecting eastern Mediterranean energy resources to mainland Greece via Cyprus and Crete.

The Cypriot presidency accused Turkey of being a “pirate state,” citing Ankara’s recent drilling off its coasts just a day after Brussels warned Turkey that its plans were illegal.

Erdogan dismissed the warning and threatened to send to the EU some 4 million refugees that Turkey is hosting.

Turkey dispatched its Yavuz drillship to the south of Cyprus on Sunday, based on claims deriving from the maritime delimitation agreement with the GNA.

Turkey’s insistence on gas exploration in the region may be subject to sanctions as early as this week, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Monday.

Aydin Sezer, an Ankara-based political analyst, drew attention to Article 25 of the Berlin final communique, which underlined the “Libyan Political Agreement as a viable framework for the political solution in Libya,” and called for the “establishment of a functioning presidency council and the formation of a single, unified, inclusive and effective Libyan government approved by the House of Representatives.”

Sezer told Arab News: “Getting approval from Libya’s Haftar-allied House of Representatives would be a serious challenge for Ankara because Haftar recently considered all agreements with Turkey as a betrayal. This peace conference once more showed that Turkey should keep away from Libya.”

Many experts remain skeptical about the possible outcome of the summit. 

Micha’el Tanchum, a senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, said: “Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.”