More than 50 civilians and 23 military personnel have been killed by mines sown by al-Qaeda since the militants were chased out of areas of south Yemen on June 13, the defense ministry reported on Saturday.
“More than 50 citizens have been killed by mines planted by the terrorists before they fled Zinjibar, Jaar and other localities” in Abyan province, ministry website 26sept.net reported, citing the province’s deputy governor.
The website quoted Colonel Said Ali Meshaal, head of a demining unit, as saying mines in Abyan had also claimed the lives of 23 soldiers, among them two officers.
On June 23, local officials had put the death toll from mine blasts at 35.
The deputy governor, Ahmed Ghaleb al-Rahwi, was quoted as saying that demining had allowed “60 to 70 percent of those displaced from Jaar and its suburbs to return home,” adding that electricity and water supplies had been restored.
However, he cautioned against a rapid return to Zinjibar, the provincial capital, from where 100,000 residents had fled to the port city of Aden, until “the thousands of mines placed there have been defused.”
Taking advantage of a central government weakened by an Arab Spring-inspired uprising last year, al-Qaeda-linked militants had overrun most of Abyan, capturing Zinjibar, Jaar, Shuqra and other villages.
But on May 12, the military launched an all-out offensive to recapture the province.