Al Mukalla: Yemeni sappers have removed and destroyed thousands of mines, unexploded ordnance and booby traps in liberated areas in the northern province of Saada, the Al Houthis main bastion.
Yemen’s Defence Ministry said on Saturday that more than 4,000 landmines were removed from former battlefields in Bouqa region, eastern Saada, in just the last couple of weeks. Sayef Al Salafi, a field explosive sapper, told the ministry’s official website that the Iran-backed Al Houthis had strewn Bouqa with landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in a bid to block government forces’ advances, adding that the Saudi-led coalition had sent modern demining machines to Saada.
Government forces have made major breakthroughs inside the Al Houthi’s heavily fortified bastion over the last couple of months, after storming the centre of Bouqa and seizing control of a strategic road linking the province with Saudi Arabia. After failing to push back the advancing forces, Al Houthis planted thousands of landmines, booby traps and homemade bombs.
Local and international groups have reported that Al Houthi’s landmines across Yemen have killed and maimed hundreds of civilians, and hindered people’s return to their homes in the liberated areas.
The ministry said government forces pushed further into Saada’s Aleb region after taking control of hillsides and killing and injuring a number of Al Houthis militants. Local army commanders expect more aggressive fighting as they approach Saada city, the capital of Saada province, home to Al Houthi leader Abdul Malek Al Houthi.
Meanwhile on the Nehim front, just outside of Al Houthi-held Sana’a, fighting intensified between government forces and Al Houthi militants, the defence ministry said. Loyalists seized control of a number of hills and heavily shelled Al Houthi positions in the Masoura region in Nehim supported by air cover from Saudi-led coalition fighter jets.
Government forces have for more than an year held positions some 35 km from Sana’a airport but they have been unable to build on their territorial gains and local commanders attribute this to the extensive use of landmines by the Al Houthis and the rough terrain in Nehim.
On the Red Sea front, fighting raged outside Al Jarrahi town in the province of Hodeida as government forces were poised to storm the town after cutting off supply routes for militants. On Saturday, Abdul Raham Al Hajeri, a field commander, told Gulf News that government troops had reached the outskirts of Al Jarrahi on Saturday and they would have to first defuse landmines and make sure civilians would not be caught up in the fighting before advancing towards the downtown area.