Shabwah: Celebrating landmine clearance victories amid evolving explosive threat

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In the midst of the continued threat from landmines in liberated areas of Yemen, Project Masam is still finding moments of triumph and celebration.

The sheer number of landmines planted in recent months has led experts to warn that the armed group’s new tactics could hamper mine eradication in Yemen, as well as pose an increased threat to the safety, health and lives of Yemenis, but Project Masam is also celebrating everyday victories.

We caught up with Ahmed Mubarak Al-Aqili, Leader of Team 16, whose team has been clearing landmines in Al-Safra area, in the Osaylan region in the resource-rich eastern Shabwah Governorate – one of the most landmine contaminated areas in Yemen.

“The achievements of Yemen’s National Mine Action Program engineering teams and Project Masam in Usaylan region included clearing several areas within a month, and we have cleared hundreds of mines from the areas of Wadi al-Daqiq, Hawayr Hammam, Set Zubbar and Aqidah Al-Jadf,” Al-Aqili (pictured in gallery) proudly told Masam from Al-Safra.

“School and hospital roads were cleared in Jabal Al-Manjash, Safra area and the area behind Al-Uqdah in Salfat Jabah, and more than 3,000 mines were cleared in this short period. This is one of the achievements of Team 16, Masam.”

The recently cleared landmines were located in and removed from vital areas including agricultural areas, grazing areas and transportation routes used by civilians – including tracks leading to local schools and hospitals.

Shabwah province has been a central frontline in the conflict between Houthi militias and pro-government forces and have been littered with landmines and other remnants of war.

The sheer number of landmines removed shows that the Houthi had a great presence in that area, Al-Aqili said.

In a worrying trend, Masam’s demining teams operating in the area have confirmed the discovery of a new type of anti-tank landmine, which construction methods and workmanship may be signalling a change of tactics in landmine warfare efforts from Houthi militias.