Shelling targeted a gas station in the Al-Rumaila area, east Marib city, Marib governorateApril 22, 2021
An investigation reveals the shelling targeted a gas station in the Al-Rumaila area, east Marib city, Marib governorate, on March 16, 2021
- About the incident: Shelling targeted a gas station in the Al-Rumaila area, east of the Marib city district in the Marib governorate center.
- Place of attack: Al-Rumaila area, east of the Marib city district in the Marib governorate center.
- Date: March 16, 2021.
- Time of Attack: Between 16:14 – 16:17 Yemeni local time.
- Casualties: 2 dead, 7 injured.
- Type of attack: Ground shelling.
- Weapons used: ”Badr-F” or ”NAKAL” Ballistic missiles.
- Potentially responsible: Forces affiliated with the Ansar Allah “Houthi” movement.
On the evening of March 16, 2021, a ballistic missile hit the “Taj Sheba Complex” gas station in the Rumaila area, east of Marib city.The missile hit the gas station while it was crowded with civilians and their vehicles, killing two people and wounding seven others. Some of those wounded were seriously injured, including an African migrant.
Background on the area
The governorate of Marib is located in the center of Yemen. It’s also one of the closest cities to Yemen’s capital At about 122 km away from Sana’a,.
Marib is considered one of the first governorates to produce petroleum products and is a main source for domestically produced gas in Yemen. Throughout the war, the city and governorate has held significant military and political importance because it houses the central offices for the Ministry of Defense and Chief of Staff for the presidency.
In March 2015, Marib city first witnessed military clashes between Ansar Allah “Houthi” movement affiliated forces from Sana’a—backed by former president “Ali Abdullah Saleh”—and “Popular Resistance” and tribesmen groups. “Popular Resistance” forces were attempting to halt the advance of Ansar Allah affiliated forces coming from Sana’a from acquiring the governorate.
Within the first months of fighting, Ansar Allah “Houthi” forces made progress, advancing towards the Marib Dam and controlling areas about 10 km west of the Marib city center. However, “Houthi” groups were later forced to retreat with the intervention of Saudi-led coalition forces. With coalition assistance, Yemeni government forces advanced and took control of the outskirts of Sirwah city and the mountains of the Nihm district in Sana’a. Since 2015, the areas of control in the western region of Marib have frequently changed.
Over the past years of the conflict, Marib has housed millions of displaced people fleeing from other Yemeni governorates. With battle areas expanding, the numbers of those displaced increase daily. According to a report published in late February 2021 by the “Executive Unit for the Management of Displaced Persons Camps,” 2,231,000 people are currently displaced in Marib. Those displaced in Marib make up 60% of the total number of people displaced in Yemen.
In February 2021, military clashes in Marib escalated and intensified. Forces affiliated with the Ansar Allah “Houthi” movement attacked the city from its northern and western sides, where most of the city’s displacement camps are located. According to a statement from the governor of the Dhamar governorate and member of Ansar Allah’s political council Muhammad Al Bukhaiti, the attack was made with the aim of “controlling the city and its oil and gas resources.” Several politicians also argue that the attack was made to apply political pressure in support of the “Houthis” in any upcoming negotiations aimed at ending the war in Yemen.
Following accusations against the Houthis of targeting civilians in Marib, The bombing of the fuel station in Rumaila in eastern Marib city was a part of a series of large-scale rocket and artillery attacks targeting residential areas and camps for the displaced.
A satellite image from Google Maps showing Marib city and the Rumaila area.
On Tuesday evening, March 16, 2021, reports circulated on social media platforms and news sites of shelling on the city of Marib. The Saba Yemeni news agency and several other news sites initially reported that a missile targeted a popular market located in easternMarib, but a video from a surveillance camera showed that the missile fell near a car wash and gas station populated with a large number of civilian cars.
A screenshot taken from the news published on The Saba Yemeni news agency site
CCTV footage, which was posted later on the day of the attack by Facebook user“Abd al-Rahman al-Shaddadi” (a resident of Marib), was widely circulated the day after the attack. From different angles, the video shows the moment the missile hit the area.. The video’s metadata reveals the date and time of the attack on the gas station.
A video taken from the surveillance cameras videos at the station, which documents in slow motion the moment the missile hit the station.
There is a three minute discrepancy in the video’s timestamp of when the missile hits the gas station. In one clip of the video the missile lands at 16:17:50, while in others it lands at 16:14:15.
Screenshots taken from the video surveillance cameras at the station, which was shared by “Abd al-Rahman al-Shaddadi” on Facebook.
Verifying the visual content
Social media platforms, news sites, and international news agencies circulated several pictures and videos from the attack site, providing a different story from what was shown in the surveillance camera footage. Because of these discrepancies, visual content had to be verified and matched to ensure the reliability of the evidence and its relevance to the incident.
The station’s fuel pumps and the landmarks that appear next to it in the surveillance camera footage match the landmarks shown in videos published a few days after the bombing by AP the Yemen Satellite TV Channel on YouTube as well as pictures shared by the Twitter user ”Al-Jawf Now” and the Marib Now news site.
After verifying the visual content shown in the pictures and videos, we were able to accurately determine the location of the strike by analyzing the identified landmarks and matching them with satellite imagery from Google Earth.
The location of the attack
In the Yemen Satellite TV Channel video report, a person states at 2:00:58 that the targeted site is the “Taj Saba Commercial Complex Station.” Local source “Nasser Al-Masabi” mentioned in a post on Facebook that the station is located in the “Rumaila” area. By searching in the city of Marib for the area and the station via Google Maps, Yemeni Archive was able to find a potential location at the coordinates 15.470019, 45.354078.
When verifying the visual content and landmarks in the pictures and videos published online and matching them with satellite imagery to verify the exact location of the bombing, we noticed two additional fuel pumps without a canopy located a few meters north of the main station. These were clearly visible in the surveillance camera footage and in pictures from the “Al-Jawf Now” tweet. We also noticed a building on the same side as the pumps and trees that can be seen from the bus window in a report published by The National. These visual landmarks match what’s shown in satellite imagery from Google Earth.
Satellite imagery from Google Earth showing the matching landmarks.
From the other three sides, satellite imagery shows a large and small hangar next to the car wash that forms the letter “L”,as well as trees on the other side of the paved road.
Satellite imagery from Google Earth showing the landmarks from east-west-south sides of the station.
The mountain behind the large hangar can also be seen in pictures from the Marib News site. The mountain also can be seen from Google Earth Pro’s “Terrain View.”
A satellite image (terrain view from Google Earth and an image from the Marib News site.
The targeted site
The CCTV footage indicates that the targeted site is a gas station and car wash. By examining the approximately 35 vehicles parked at the station at the time of the attack, we can see that they are passenger buses and private vehicles belonging to civilians
Screenshots taken from the CCTV video showing the vehicles that were at the station at the time of the bombing.
A screenshot from AP’s video report showing the location the missile hit near the car wash.
In the screenshot above, we noticed the presence of a Toyota, locally called (Shas), which is mostly used by military and security forces. However, the absence of customizations usually made for warfare—such as a base for installing machine guns or added seats on the sides of the truck loading box—rule out the possibility that this vehicle is affiliated with a military force.
A screenshot taken from the CCTV footage.
Yemeni Archive was unable to find any evidence in the visual content available online suggesting that this site was being used for military purposes.
Munitions used in the attack
Reports published online, indicate that a ballistic missile targeted the station. However, Yemeni Archive was unable to determine the exact type of missile because no munition remnants were found after the attack. However, visual content showing the moment the missile hit the station and the subsequent explosion reveal information that potentially clarifies specifics about the missile.
In the first clip from the surveillance camera footage, which shows the area between the station and the hangar next to the car wash, we see a shadow in the form of a cloud appear before the missile reaches the ground. This is most likely a missile with an air burst system—where the missile explodes before reaching the ground to spread shrapnel as well as hit the target site.
Screenshots from the first clip of surveillance camera footage.
In terms of the stages of the explosion and the effect it has on the ground, this type of missile is relatively similar to the “Badr-F” ballistic missile. The “Badr-F” was presented by the Ansar Allah “Houthis” movement military spokesman and published by military media outlets in 2019.
We determined the distance between the explosion’s shadow and the missile’s impact site the missile, shown in visual content, as approximately 25 meters using a Google Earth scale.
A video taken from the report published by military media outlets, showing the “Badr-F” ballistic missile, stages of the explosion, and the effect it has on the ground
According to the information that appeared in a Houthi press video on the Badr-F fragmentation missile, the explosion of the missile occurs at a height of 20 meters before it reaches the target. We analyzed the position of the sun and the length of the possible shadow at the time and day of the bombing using the ”SunCalc” tool. Yemeni Archive was able to find that the distance of the shadow from the location of the fall is about 25 meters, which means that the explosion occurred at a height of about 15 meters. This is close to what was mentioned in the missile press video.
To confirm the type of the missile used in the attack, we analyzed another video showing the firing of the missiles. In that video the Ansar Allah “Houthi” movement announced other types of ballistic missiles including the ”Badr-F” and ”NAKAL.”
Potentially responsible for the attack
Online content shows the location where the missile fell in the station The missile left an angled crater in the asphalt. With this crater, the angle of penetration and possibly the launch direction can be identified.. Through this analysis, Yemeni Archive was able to determine the location of the launch site. The missile was likely launched from northwest of Marib around the Al Jawf governorate and the Al Hazm district center. Both these areas are under Ansar Allah “Houthi” movement control.
Satellite imagery via Google Earth showing the likely direction the missile was launched from.
In the Yemeni war, ballistic missiles and explosive drones are some of the primary weapons in the Ansar Allah “Houthi” movement’s arsenal. These weapons were developed in recent years to travel long distances. The weapons allow Houthi forces to reach important oil stations located far away on Saudi soil. Ballistic missiles are also used extensively in the ongoing battles in Marib. Some have hit residential areas in the city. Moreover, since the beginning of the war no local or international lreports have indicated that the Yemeni government forces possessed ballistic missiles or have used them. This suggests that the Ansar Allah “Houthi” movement is responsible for the bombing of the gas station, which is located in an area outside of its military control.
The official website of the ”Marib Governorate” stated, citing a medical source, that the bombing of the station killed two people and injured seven others. Some of those wounded—including an African migrant—were seriously injured. The Marib governorate site and other online sources did not disclose any information about the names and ages of the victims.
A screenshot taken of the news from the official website of the “Marib Governorate.”
Through the information detailed above, Yemeni Archive concluded that on the evening of March 16, 2021 between 16:14 and 16:17 Yemeni local time, a ballistic missile —with an air burst system—hit a gas station crowded with civilian vehicles (approximately 35 vehicles) in the Rumaila area, east Marib city. Two civilians were killed and seven wounded, including an African migrant, in the bombing.
Although the Yemeni Archive team was unable to definitively identify who is responsible for the attack, the analysis of the open-source visual content available suggests that the attack was carried out from an area located in the northwest of the Marib governorate, which is under Ansar Allah “Houthi” movement control. Open source content points towards the Ansar Allah “Houthi” movement as responsible for the attack.
An investigation by the journalist Abdullah Al-Maamari | Yemeni Archive Team