Five mine removal staff killed in Yemen

Foreign technicians working for a Saudi-funded project died when a device exploded in Marib province

An explosion crater is seen behind a destroyed factory after a reported airstrike by Saudi-led coalition in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, on January 20, 2019. Coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki said in Riyadh, that the alliance launched an "operation to destroy multiple military targets", including seven bases across Sanaa. Targets included drone storage and testing areas, training bases, and bomb-manufacturing facilities. / AFP / Mohammed HUWAIS
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Five foreign experts clearing mines planted by Houthi rebels in Yemen were killed on Sunday when a device exploded.

The team was working for Masam, a Saudi-funded project, and died near the headquarters of the programme in Marib province, a source at the scene told The National.

A landmine blew up as the technicians were preparing to move hundreds of similar devices cleared from sites in Marib. The munitions were to be taken to a remote area for disposal.

A source at the scene told The National that a mine exploded, starting a chain reaction which set off other devices. Assistant programme manager Johan den Haan, a UK citizen of South African origin, was among the dead, the source said.

“The mines continued going off for more than 30 minutes but the impact of the explosions fortunately didn’t reach the team’s headquarters, where thousands of mines and explosive devices were stored.

"No injuries were reported among other members of the team or civilians,” the source said

Director of the Masam programme, Osama Al Gosaibi, posted his condolences on Twitter and said the project extended its "deepest sympathy to the families of the martyrs".

The Masam project was set up 18 months ago by the King Salman Relief Centre and works in areas that were controlled by Houthi rebels in northern Yemen and the port city of Hodeidah.

The programme has cleared 37,000 mines since it was set up in 2017.