Yemeni and Sudanese soldiers are seen in a crater containing a large number of landmines and other explosives for the preparation of destroying in Midi district, Hajjah province, Yemen, Jan. 30, 2021. (Photo by Mohammed Al-Wafi/Xinhua)
by Mohamed al-Azaki, Mohammed Al-Wafi
HAJJAH, Yemen, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- At a minefield in the Yemeni district of Midi by the Red Sea, Saudi and Sudanese soldiers were helping their Yemeni comrades transporting thousands of landmines that have been already removed to large holes in the desert to destroy.
The Houthi militia planted these mines before they were forced to withdraw towards remote villages in southern Hajjah province.
Yemen has been mired in a civil war since late 2014, when the Iran-backed Houthi militia stormed several northern provinces and pushed the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi out of the capital Sanaa.
The Saudi-led Arab coalition forces intervened in the Yemeni conflict in 2015 to support Hadi's government.
At this minefield in Midi, Yemeni officer Mujahid al-Shaer is in charge of a mine removal battalion in the Yemeni army.
"We have removed about 5,000 landmines and improvised explosive devices during the past few months from roads, farms and villages in Midi alone," al-Shaer told Xinhua.
"We have also removed more than 45,000 mines from the neighboring border areas, including the districts of Hayran, Haradh and Abs, in the northern Hajjah province and work is continuing to clear more minefields with the help of the Arab coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia," he added.
Sudanese Captain Mohammed Qasim Saqaa is the commander of a Sudanese military battalion in Midi, which is part of the Sudanese forces led by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
"We, in the Sudanese battalion, continue to assist the Yemeni army in cleaning the country of all types of landmines and all remnants of ammunition left by the Houthi militia," he said.
"The Sudanese forces also continue to support the Yemeni army in securing the liberated areas, and help facilitate the return of Yemeni civilians to their homes," he added.
Military experts here estimate that hundreds of thousands of landmines still buried under the sand, threatening the residents and returnees from internal displaced camps.
For Yemeni officer al-Shaer, there are many challenges facing the demining teams here in Midi. "Given the huge numbers of landmines planted indiscriminately in many of the vast areas here, we are facing more difficulties and challenges in this mission, including a lack of trained experts and some equipments. But the Saudi project (Masam) in Yemen has helped the Yemeni army a lot to overcome many challenges."
According to Yemeni officials, the Saudi Project for Clearing Landmines is helping the Yemeni government to clear large swathes of the mines, secure roads for the return of displaced people to their homes, and secure humanitarian aid supplies to reach the needy.
Osama Al-Gosaibi, the project director in Yemen, told Xinhua last month that "the project had cleared 204,507 landmines and unexploded ordnance from across Yemen since mid-2018."
In January 2019, five foreign experts working with the Saudi project in Yemen were killed by Houthi landmines, according to the Saudi daily Arabnews. Six more experts were killed by landmines in April of the same year.
The Yemeni government and the Saudi Project for Clearing Landmines estimate that the Houthi militias have planted more than a million landmines across Yemen during years of the conflict.
The Saudi project has 32 demining teams working across Yemen.
It also trains Yemeni demining engineers by providing them modern equipment, and give assistance to mine victims.
According to a Yemeni government statement broadcasted recently by the Yemeni state television, the Houthi landmines have caused more than 9,000 deaths and injuries, adding that the Houthis have redesigned anti-tank mines and turned them into lethal mines for individuals.
The Yemen war continues into its sixth year with more than a million landmines stymieing the army's advance. Enditem