SANAA, Yemen (AP) — An explosion killed six guards of the Yemeni defense minister and wounded eight others Wednesday, military officials said, the latest casualties of unmarked landmines that litter the war-torn country.
Defense Minister Mohammed al-Maqdishi emerged unscathed from the blast that struck a car in his convoy in the central province of Marib, where he was surveying his forces on the front line fighting to dislodge the Shiite Houthi rebels from the area.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to brief the media.
Al-Maqdishi said battles would continue to rage until the army achieves its ambitions.
“No obstacles or challenges can discourage Yemenis from continuing work to restore their country,” he said from the field, according to a government statement.
The landmine was apparently planted by the Houthis, which months ago controlled the western parts of Marib and left the area sown with buried explosives. The district, along with the mountainous province just north, Jawf, has been a recent flashpoint for deadly combat.
More than 50 fighters on both sides have been killed over the past four days. The Saudi-led coalition supporting the Yemeni government staged airstrikes in Jawf over the weekend, killing at least 32 civilians, including women and children.
The mine explosion Wednesday followed a spike in tensions on the other side of Yemen, in the isolated easternmost province of al-Mahra. Although it lies hundreds of miles from offensives against the Houthis, al-Mahra has been a frequent focal point for clashes between Saudi coalition forces consolidating control over the strategic border and residents rallying to resist.
This week local people protested seeking to prevent Saudi Arabia from stationing troops at the border crossing with the Gulf state of Oman. The demonstrations swiftly escalated into deadly clashes as Saudi Arabia sent dozens of armored vehicles and soldiers who fired live bullets to disperse protesters.
Five years of devastating war between the Houthi rebels, which control the capital and much of the country’s north, and the Saudi-led coalition has precipitated a humanitarian catastrophe. The conflict has killed over 100,000 people and pushed the Arab world’s poorest country to the brink of famine.