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Photo journalist killed in booby-trap explosion in Al-Askari neighbourhood, east of Taiz.

October 6, 2021

A photojournalist killed

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Incident Summary

  • Incident: A photojournalist killed
  • Location: A building in Al-Askari neighbourhood in Salh District, east of Taiz city.
  • Date: 18 November 2016
  • Time: between 15:40 and 16:29 local time
  • Victims: Four, including a photojournalist
  • Type of attack: Explosion of booby-trapped house
  • Possible munition: improvised explosive device
  • Potential responsibility: Forces of Ansar Allah forces (Houthis) and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Introduction

On the evening of 18 November 2016, Awab Al-Zubayri, a photojournalist was killed when a booby-trap exploded in Al-Askari neighbourhood, east of Taiz. The explosion coincided with military confrontations between the Yemeni government forces and the forces of Ansar Allah and former President Abdullah Saleh in the region.

1 A photo from Marsadak website

About the area

Al-Askari neighbourhood is located in Salh District, east of Taiz city, the centre of Taiz governorate. It is named after the military hospital, which remained under the control of Ansar Allah and forces of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh until mid-November of 2016. The government forces in Taiz managed to take control of the neighbourhood after military confrontations forced the Houthi-Saleh forces to retreat to the Republican Palace and Al-Tashreef Camp, about 700 meters north of the neighbourhood, and they are still there until this moment.

2 A satellite image

Incident

On the evening of 18 November 2016, social media and news websites circulated news of the death of photojournalist Awab Alzubairy and three soldiers in the explosion of a booby-trapped house in Al-Askari neighbourhood, east of Taiz, during military confrontations between the Yemeni government forces and the Houthi-Saleh forces.

3 A screenshot of a Tweet by Al Arabi TV

4 A screenshot of Nabil Alosaidi’s Facebook post

Videos and photos on social media and news websites showed smoke allegedly coming from the building that exploded and killed the photojournalist. Other visual content showed the military confrontations between the government forces and the Houthi-Saleh forces on 17 and 18 November 2016. The Yemeni Archive collected, examined, and analysed the visual content to verify its reliability and relevance to the incident.

Visual Content Verification

Yemeni Archive collected visual content related to the incident from TVs and YouTube channels (Al Jazeera Mubasher TV - Al Jazeera News Channel - Rushd Channel - Balqees TVAlmasirah TV), and from pages of photographers on Facebook (Ahmed Basha - Abdul Hakeem Moghalless), in addition to content published by Taiz News Network, and Takatol Jameena Taiz, which visited the place after the incident. Screenshots and images obtained by Yemeni Archive show a match in the location where the building exploded and the surrounding landmarks

5 Two screenshots from the videos published by Rushd TV and Al Jazeera Mubasher on YouTube

Screenshots from Ahmed Basha’s video on Facebook, and Balqees TV on YouTube

7 Two photos from Abdul Hakeem Moghalless and Takatol Jameena Taiz on Facebook

Geographic location

Naeef Alwafi, who identifies himself as a collaborating cameraman for Al-Jazeera Mubasher, stated in a Facebook post that the building that exploded, in which journalist Awab Al-Zubayri was killed, is located near the military hospital in Taiz. The landmarks that appeared in the visual content of Al Jazeera Mubasher - Al Jazeera News Channel - Rushd Channel - Balqees TV correspond to satellite images of the area at coordinates 13.570276, 44.031329, and refer to a building less than 25 meters across from the military hospital, separated by an asphalt road.

8 Screenshots from videos by Al Jazeera Mubasher and Rushd channel

Screenshots from videos by Balqees TV and Al Jazeera news channel A satellite image of Al-Askari neighbourhood

10

Data from Google Maps confirm that Abu Khaled restaurant, which appeared in Al Jazeera news channel video, is near the targeted building

Time

Ahmed Basha posted on Facebook the first report of the incident, attaching a picture of the house after its destruction. A timestamp analysis of the post, via Timestamp Converter, points to 16:29 local time. The image is a screenshot from a video published by the same account later on the day of the accident. The video shows the shadows of the concrete columns are longer than the column size estimated at 3.2 meters. Using the Suncalc shadow analysis website on the same date of the accident, shows that the length of the shadow is relatively identical at 15:40 local time, where we can determine an approximate time range for the incident between 15:40 - 16:29.

11 A screenshot of Ahmed Basha’s post and an image from Timestamp

A screenshot from Ahmed Basha’s video, and an image from Suncalc shadow analysis website

Frontlines

Information available online states that Yemeni government forces in Taiz city took control of the military hospital, which was under the control of Houthi-Saleh forces, after military confrontations, two days before the bombing of the building, on 16 November 2016. Almasirah TV, affiliated with the Houthis, published a video of the battles in the Al-Askari neighbourhood. In the video, the name of Elaf National School appears written on a wall next to which a Houthi gunman is shooting at the arrow pointing upwards. The same school’s name appears on a billboard on a wooden electricity pole near the destroyed building, pointing downward, published by Takatol Jameena Taiz. This means that the area is close to the frontlines.

13 A photo from Takatol Jameena Taiz Facebook page, and a screenshot from Almasirah TV video

Shadow analysis of Almasirah TV video indicates that it is 13:30 local time. The video was posted at 20:02 on 18 November 2016, according to YouTube DataViewer. The person who shot the video says that the date is 17 November 2016. Yemeni Archive was not able to confirm the date of the video, but it was shot in the same period as that of the military confrontations inside Al-Askari neighbourhood, which enables us to accurately determine the frontlines.

*A screenshot from Almasirah TV video, and an image from Suncalc shadow analysis website*

15 An image from YouTube DataViewer, and an image from the date and time converter

The video showed Houthi-Saleh forces in three locations between the houses during the confrontations. The Archive team identified them by matching the visual evidence with satellite images of the area. In the following photos, the first location was determined at coordinates: 13.571027, 44.031765, 70 meters north of the building. The other is at coordinates: 13.570996, 44.032289.

16 Two screenshots from Almasirah TV video

17 A satellite image of Al-Askari neighbourhood

The team identified the third site on the same horizontal line as the previous two sites at coordinates 13.570571, 44.033247, separated by a residential square within a rectangle with a circumference of approximately 800 meters, as the following pictures show.

18 A screenshot from Almasirah TV video, and a satellite image

19en

Ammunition type

Available sources agree that the explosion was caused by explosive devices in a building and that photojournalist Awab Al-Zubayri was in the building, accompanied by Yemeni government forces.

The inclination of the building shown in a video by Taiz News Network and Ahmed Basha while pulling the body of Al-Zubayri out from under the rubble, resembles buildings demolished by explosives. The inclination of the building was a result of the difference in height of the floor on which it was built from the front and back, as well as the placement of explosives at the lowest point of the building.

The rubble of the building and its concrete pillars flying towards the side of the person shooting the video, in addition to the absence of burns on the photojournalist’s bag and body, gives a possible explanation that the explosive devices are placed next to the far wall from the room next to the photographer’s side. If a solid object is behind the explosives it serves to direct the explosion pressure to the other side. According to the detonation mechanism of mines, the hard floor under the mine directs the explosion pressure upwards.

Screenshots from Taiz News Network video, and Ahmed Basha’s Facebook video of the leaning building after the explosion

21 A screenshot from Euronews Arabic TV video of the moment a building was demolished with explosives. The inclination of the building, especially the right part of the image, shows how buildings fall when explosives are placed at their bottom

A photo from Khaled Fouad Al-Banna Facebook, and a screenshot from Taiz News Network video on Facebook

It shows the direction of the spread of the building rubble due to the pressure of the explosion

A perspective that simulates the floor on which the building is built and its inclination, in addition to the direction of the explosion and the spread of rubble.

24 A sketch of the photojournalist’s location and possible location of the explosive devices

We can hear the sound of a double explosion - the sound of two consecutive explosions - at 00:00:07 in Ahmed Basha’s video, which suggests that two explosive devices have exploded in the building. The Archive team was unable to find physical evidence in the available sources to support the hypothesis that the explosion was caused by explosive devices, and there are no indications that lead us to a different interpretation, as it is not possible for the mines to cause such damage to the building.

Potential responsibility

After the incident, sources and media accused the Houthi-Saleh forces of booby-trapping and detonating a building in which the photojournalist, Awab Al-Zubayri, happened to be inside. We did not find open-source information from Houthi-Saleh media about the incident.

Muhammad Mahyoub Ahmed, a journalist, stated in a Facebook post, on the day of the explosion of the building, that the Houthi-Saleh forces booby-trapped the building through a back road linked to an alley leading to the bottom of the Al-Askari neighbourhood. The Archive team was able, through satellite images, to identify the building and the alley that leads to a road to the areas of control of the Houthi-Saleh forces, which is the first location that was identified in the Frontlines section.

25 A screenshot of Mohamed Mahyoub Ahmed Ali’s Facebook post

26en

Taiz News Network video, during pulling out the body of the photojournalist, Awab Al-Zubayri, shows that there were clashes inside the alley and shooting towards people who were trying to search among the rubble for the victims. A bullet hit a concrete block of rubble scattered in the place. In the same video, the impact of gunshots appears on the wall behind which the videographer is standing, which proves the presence of “Houthis-Saleh” forces in the alley when the explosion occurred.

Screenshots from Taiz News Network video show the impact of the bullet on the concrete block while trying to retrieve the victims of the explosion from among the rubble

Two days after the explosion of the building, Muhammad Yousef Al-Adini, a correspondent of the Suhail satellite channel, published pictures of improvised explosive devices, mines and various types of explosives, which were found in an explosives factory that he said belongs to the Houthi-Saleh forces in one of the neighbourhoods near the Al-Askari neighbourhood.

28 Photos posted by Muhammad Youssef Al-Adini on Facebook

During the government forces’ control of large areas east of Taiz city after military confrontations with Houthi-Saleh forces, Facebook pages published photos of explosive devices and mines planted in the corridors and between houses in the neighbourhoods of Al-Jahliya, Al-Dawa and Bazara, which are between 400 and 600 meters away. West and north of Al-Askari neighbourhood.

29 Photos from Ahmed Basha and Abdul Hakeem Moghalless’s Facebook pages

30 A screenshot of Ahmed Hazaa’s Facebook post

The Archive found open-source information that documented thousands of explosive devices and mines, in different governorates, of the same type that were found in Taiz city, confirming the widespread use of this type of explosives in the war by the Houthi-Saleh forces.

There is no conclusive evidence that confirms the responsibility of the Houthi-Saleh forces for blowing up the building in Al-Askari neighbourhood, but the explosives found by the government forces in places that were under the control of Houthi-Saleh forces, and the presence of their forces near the building on the same day of the explosion, in addition to their widespread use of this type of weapons in different parts of the country, provides reasons for the responsibility of the Houthi-Saleh forces for the explosion that killed the photojournalist, Awab al-Zubayri.

Victims

Awab al-Zubayri, a photojournalist, who worked for Taiz News Network, and three other soldiers from the government forces. The number of the dead in the available sources are the same, but it was not possible to find accurate information about the number of those injured in the same building.

Names of the dead:

  1. Awab Tariq Al-Zubayri (photojournalist)
  2. Yasser Sadiq Abdo Qaed (Soldier)
  3. Muhammad Salih al-Idrisi (soldier)
  4. Ihab Abdel-Qawi Anam Al-Sharabi (Soldier)

31 Photojournalist Awab Al-Zubayri, a reporter for Taiz News Network

Conclusion

Based on the above information, Yemeni Archive concluded that on the evening of 18 November 2016, Awab Al-Zubayri, a photojournalist was, killed with three soldiers from the Yemeni government forces, when a building booby trapped with explosive devices collapsed in Al-Askari neighbourhood, east of Taiz. The explosive devices were likely planted by Ansar Allah forces (Houthis) and the forces of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who controlled the area a few days before the incident, in addition to their presence in the alleys leading to the building that day.

The Yemeni Archive is fully independent and accepts no money from governments directly involved in the Yemeni conflict. We are seeking individual donations to carry out our work. Please consider supporting our work through our Patreon page.

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