Dubai - An explosion killed five demining specialists in war-torn Yemen’s central province of Maarib on Sunday, security and medical sources said. A pro-government security official, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said the five were foreign experts working on the Saudi-backed Masam landmine clearance project.

AFP could not independently confirm which countries they came from.

The official said the blast occurred as landmines were being transported to be destroyed. A medic at a Maarib hospital confirmed five bodies were brought to the hospital, adding that a number of other people were injured in the incident. Al Houthi militia has been accused of the widespread and indiscriminate use of landmines.

Meanwhile, the coalition launched several air strikes on Yemen’s Al Houthi-held capital Sana’a overnight, after a string of Al Houthi violations of a ceasefire deal reached in Sweden in December.

Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television said coalition fighter jets attacked seven military targets, including Al Dulaimi Air Base, a drones storage site and military training camps.

Al Houthi-run Al Masirah TV said on Sunday that the Western-backed coalition had conducted 24 air strikes on Sana’a since Saturday evening, including four on the air base.

Advanced operation

The coalition operation on Saturday night targeted and destroyed seven military support facilities with Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, UAV, capabilities belonging to the Iranian-backed Al Houthi militias across Sana’a, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

In a statement released this morning, Colonel Turki Al Malki, the Official Spokesman of the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, said that the operation followed “precise intelligence conducted over a long period of time”, which included monitoring and surveilling Al Houthi militia activities and their movements in order to learn about the system’s components, its infrastructure and operational and logistical connection, as well as its communication system and the whereabouts of foreign experts.

“The raids were the likes of which we have not seen for a year,” Sana’a resident Arwa Abdul Karim told Reuters.

The escalation in fighting, which follows a deadly Al Houthi drone attack last week on a Yemeni government military parade, raises doubts about the chances of a second round of UN-sponsored talks this month aimed at ending the nearly four-year war.