Yemen in Focus: 'No explosives found' at Aden port

Yemen in Focus: 'No explosives found' at Aden port
6 min read
21 August, 2020
This week we focus on the result of an investigation into alleged ammonium nitrate at Aden port, Yemen's viral 'water girl' and more.
Six containers were investigated at the port [Getty]
An investigation launched into the alleged presence of ammonium nitrate at Aden port has cleared any concerns of explosives materials stored in some 140 containers, according to a report seen by The New Arab.

Authorities in the coastal city said they found no presence of ammonium nitrate - the same material that caused the Beirut blast just weeks earlier, killing more than 180 people in the Lebanese capital.

“Random samples were taken from 6 different containers and scrutinised at a laboratory by experts at the High Authority for Drug Control,” the official report said.

“After analysing random samples from the 6 containers using the Metrohm Raman machine, the investigation confirms the material found was non-explosive fertiliser,” it concluded.

The investigation came after prominent journalists from the southern coastal city revealed the presence of tonnes of ammonium nitrate in 140 4ft containers which had allegedly been stored for at least three years.

Editor-in-chief of Aden Alghad, Fathi bin Lazraq, who first revealed the reports, told The New Arab he had obtained documents to prove the explosive material was stored in the containers at the port for years after authorities stopped it from entering into the country.

Similar action has been taken by authorities across the Arab world, including in Iraq where authorities confirmed the removal of "dangerous materials" from Baghdad's International Airport last week.

The material was relocated to Iraq’s Military Engineering Directorate at the ministry of defence, according to a statement.

Concerns over the presence of the explosive material around other Arab cities first erupted after after a deadly explosion rocked the port of Beirut earlier this month, killing over 180 people and wounding thousands more. 

The explosion was believed to have been caused by a fire that ignited a 2,750-ton stockpile of explosive ammonium nitrate. The material had been stored at the port since 2013 with few safeguards despite numerous warnings of the danger.

UN funding slashed

Also in Yemen this week, a senior UN official warned on Tuesday that the war-torn country is sliding toward famine as the coronavirus spreads and its economy implodes - all amid a funding crisis that is forcing the United Nations to make deeper aid cuts, including stopping treatment for 250,000 severely malnourished children.

"Those children - and many other people - will die without your help,” Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ramesh Rajasingham told the UN Security Council.
"They feel like they’re being punished unfairly by a world that promised to help but is now turning its back.”

He said the UN has received just 21% of its $2.4 billion humanitarian appeal for 2020.

"It is extremely disappointing” that only about half of the $1.35 billion in humanitarian aid pledged in June has actually been paid," Rajasingham said, adding that the pledge was only half of what the UN received last year.

"I call on all donors - and especially Yemen’s neighbors in the Gulf - to pay all pledges now," he said. "And I call on those who did not pledge, or who pledged less than last year, to increase their support.”

Rajasingham said the UN has no good answers to Yemenis asking about cuts that have already been instituted - to allowances for front-line health workers in the pandemic, the closure of primary health facilities that were caring for 1.8 million people, and "reduced food aid for 8 million people when famine is again stalking the country.”

"In the next few weeks, the cuts will go even deeper," he said.

"At the end of the month, we will reduce water and sanitation programs by half in 15 cities. In September, we’ll stop supporting nearly 400 additional health facilities, cutting off 9 million people from medical care. We’ll also stop treating more than a quarter million severely malnourished children.”

As for the economy, he said, Yemen’s exchange rate remains “at crisis levels,” sparking soaring food prices that mean few people can afford to eat as well as rocketing fuel prices that are making water and transport costs even more expensive.

‘Water girl’ goes viral

In the contested city of Taiz this week, a 9-year-old girl who was shot by Houthi rebels while getting water went viral after a graphic image of the incident was shared online.

Ruwaida Saleh was pulled to safety by her brother, also a child, after being shot in the head on a public road.

A video clip showing the child - who survived the incident but it in critical condition - on a hospital bed is circulating social media.

An aerial image of the little girl lying on the ground as her brother attempted to pull her to safety was widely shared across social media as a grim reminder of the violence perpetrated by Houthi rebels in Yemen.

It is unclear whether the young girl was the intended target of the attack, but it is believed that Houthi snipers are stationed on the hill overlooking the neighbourhood where the shooting occurred.

In June a mother, her daughter and her young son were shot and killed by gunmen while travelling on a bus to shop for a wedding dress for the daughter.

Bashir Al-Jaafari and his other were killed during the attack, which saw gunmen open fire on a bus near the Al-Ma’ain area in western Ibb, witnesses at the time told Almasdar Online.

In April, at least five women and a child were killed after Houthi rebels launched an attack on a prison in Taiz.

The child had reportedly been visiting the prison at the time of the attack.

Saudi-led coalition crimes

Separately this week, a new rebel-held ministry report blamed the Saudi-led coalition for exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where air strikes have destroyed 200 factories.

The report revealed Yemen’s industries had suffered severe damages due to multiple coalition air strikes, aiding in the deteriorating circumstances across the country, including poverty, chronic unemployment, war and raging conflict.
According to the report issued by the Houthi-controlled ministry of industry and trade, the attacks had completely paralysed the industrial movement, The New Arab’s sister Arabic-news platform Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported.

By targeting the facilities, the coalition had struck Yemen’s economy and greatly impacted the people’s livelihoods, a rebel source told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

In a previous reports, the Yemeni private sector had estimated some two billion dollars in damage to the industrial sector in the country.

The reports lay 55 percent of the blame on direct coalition attacks, shortly followed by indirect strikes at 35 percent, while 10 percent was a result of clashes.
Tamim Al-Saqqaf, director of the Commercial and Industrial Department in the Sana'a Capital Secretariat, confirmed that the private sector has been severely affected, despite its neutrality and lack of links to any of the parties to the conflict.

Read also: Yemen's last remaining Jews 'to move to UAE' following Israel treaty

More than 100,000 people – most of whom are civilians – have been killed since the Saudi-led coalition backed the government in March 2015 in what has been referred to by the UN as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Yemen In Focus is a regular feature from The New Arab.

Sana Uqba is a journalist at The New Arab. 

Follow her on Twitter: @Sanasiino