Gosaibi: MASAM Project Cleared Over 16,000 Mines, Unexploded Ordnance
The Saudi Project for Landmines Clearance in Yemen (MASAM) has cleared more than 16,000 mines, unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices planted by Iranian-backed Houthi militias in Yemeni villages and towns, since its launch in late June 2018.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, MASAM Program Manager Osama Al-Gosaibi said that the majority of mines were Iranian made, while others originated from Russia and Eastern Europe.
He noted that the project employed 41 teams inside Yemen, including 32 demining teams and nine rapid intervention groups to neutralize explosive devices, while the total number of team members is around 430.
“We work from Marib as the headquarters and we have teams in the governorates of Shabwa, Al Jawf, Al-Bayda, parts of Taiz, Bab Al Mandab, West Coast… and two teams in Sanaa,” he stated.
Three members were killed during demining operations, he said, stressing that MASAM was a “purely humanitarian project”, with Saudi supervision and funding, that focuses on preserving the lives of the population in various Yemeni areas, including those under the control of the Houthis, noting that two teams were currently operating in Sanaa.
According to Gosaibi, MASAM Project has trained 32 Yemeni teams from the Yemeni National Demining Program, providing them with equipment, armor, and vehicles, as well as medical and logistical support under the supervision of Saudi and foreign experts.
“So far, we have cleared 16,000 mines, unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices in various liberated areas where we operate,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Gosaibi continued: “We have about 20 people in Sanaa, and this confirms that we are not targeting only the liberated areas, but all the Yemeni territories without exception or distinction. The only challenge is not being able to supervise them directly, so we receive reports from them after a while.”
Asked about the types of mines cleared so far by MASAM, he said: “We have found many types; there are mines that were in the warehouses of the Yemeni army, including Russian mines or Eastern European; but there are a lot of mines imported from Iran, and there are mines manufactured locally, and we found them in abundance.”
“Houthi militias have planted these mines indiscriminately in cities, roads, houses, mosques, and schools. We can understand the planting of mines on military fronts and defensive positions on the battle lines, but we have found mines in villages, gardens, and schools, which means that these mines don’t have a military purpose but have become a tool for terrorism,” he affirmed.
Estimates showed that mine victims reached 1,800 people among those killed, injured and amputated, according to Gosaibi.
He noted that MASAM operated under the umbrella of King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Action (KSRELIEF), and maintained coordination with the different Yemeni parties.
“We coordinate with all the parties on the ground, the legitimacy, the Coalition, and the Yemeni resistance; everyone is aware of our actions to facilitate our work,” he said.