The Car Explosion in Thee Sufal: The Complete Story [Archives:1999/43/Reportage]

October 25 1999

Yemen Times Staff

It was a mysterious and extraordinary night for the people of Thee Sufal. those people who had never gone through such conditions and had never in their lives heard a small explosion, hence hearing the sound of an explosion of hundreds of kilos of dynamite surely had its toll on them. It was truly an unforgettable incident not only for Thee Sufal, but for the whole peaceful province of Ibb.
The Beginning
At 5:50, Thursday evening, October 21, a huge explosion rocked the area called “Thee Sufal” in the south of Ibb (197 km south of Sanaa). The voice was so load that villagers in neighboring areas also heard the explosion.
The whole story began with a telephone call from Ibb security office to the security office of Al-Qai’da stating that there is a suspicious vehicle carrying smuggled explosives escaping from Ibb towards Al-Qai’da. Immediately after receiving the call, a team consisting of 5 policemen, including major Al- Al-Lahbi, the manager of Al-Qa’ida security office was prepared to track down and capture the vehicle. Being experts in smuggling weapons and dynamite, the two men in the suspicious vehicle realized that there was a police car awaiting them, so they branched to an un-asphalted road leading to Thee Sufal area (15 km away from Al-Qa’ida, takes 45 minutes to reach) in an attempt to escape. However, it was not long until the police car was able to follow them and begin a long chase, until they both arrived to the Thee Sufal village which was by the time loaded with a lot of villagers. After realizing that they are being closely followed, the vehicle driver and passenger fired at the policemen killing two of them and continued on their way escaping from the police. But having two of their fellow members shot to death, the other police officers could not resist and began shooting at the vehicle without taking into consideration the risk of causing an explosion. Regrettably, one of the bullets that came out of the police arms hit the dynamite on the other vehicle, and caused a huge and loud explosion. The blast obviously destroyed the vehicle and killed the driver, the passenger, and 7 passersby. The number of injuries exceeded 45, of whom many were innocent children and passersby, who had their arms and legs cut. The explosion which rocked the whole village also caused severe damages to the houses near the spot of the incident. Interesting, the spot of the explosion was surrounded by three homes of prominent figures in the country, including the houses of Sheik Mohammed Ahmed Mansour, Member of the permanent committee of the ruling party (PGC), Sheik Yahiya Al-Junaid, Member of the Parliament (who had his son slightly injured), and Sadiq Amin Aburas, the Minister of Local Administration.
Yemen Times in the Village
As soon as we arrived to the Thee Sufal village in the morning of the next day, we found large gatherings of villagers who were sad and concerned about the fate of their family members who were killed and injured. We also found several police cars and investigation units trying to collect the remaining pieces of the wrecked vehicle, which were disseminated all over the place.
We then talked with a number of villagers who expressed their dismay at what had happened, and blamed the policemen for the disaster, “It is unimaginable that a policeman could ever think of shooting at a vehicle loaded with hundreds of kilos of dynamite in such a crowded village as Thee Sufal while they kept on chasing it for half an hour in totally empty roads. They ignored shooting at it all the way, and it was not until they arrived to our crowded village, that it came to their minds to shoot at it? This is nonsense” a villager said.
One of the teachers in the village mentioned that the explosion took place in the time of dawn prayer while people were on their way to the mosques for prayer. The people of the area did not realize the actual reason behind the explosion, which occurred abruptly. He said that the villagers could see nothing remaining from the exploded vehicle, not even the engine or the tires, it totally turned into charred unrecognizable pieces.
“We tried to rescue whoever we could by taking them to the closest hospital, and that was the Military Hospital in Taiz. Some of the injured were severely wounded that we lost hope in rescuing them. Later, we discovered that they had died. Many of them are still in critical conditions and need to be sent abroad for surgery, and many had their arms and legs cut” the teacher added.
Later, we went to Al-Thawra hospital in Taiz to see how critical the conditions of the injured were. There we talked to Dr. Abdullah Annab, the General Manager Assistant of the hospital, who said, ” around 28 people arrived to the hospital, of whom 5 had died. There are currently at least 23 injured persons, 11 of them are in critical conditions. The rest of the injured are in the Military Hospital.” Hence, in order to know the exact number of the people injured, we went to the Military Hospital in Taiz, where we asked the General Manager of the number of cases and their conditions. But unfortunately, he refused to give any information at all, stating that he had instructions not to mention anything about this case. He directed us to the Security office of Taiz, whom we called to get answers, but who also refused to provide us with any numbers, and on his turn directed us to the Ibb Security Office Manager. We then called the Ibb Security Office Manager to be again faced with the same response of “We are not allowed to give you any information because we are not the persons concerned.” He directed us to the general relations department of the Ministry of Interior in Sanaa. We didn’t give up, and we called the department to get no response at all. We were surprised at the level of conservation the hospital managers and security officials had shown.
However, we were still able to get some information from one of the security people in Al-Thawra Hospital who mentioned that the number of the people killed was 11, 5 of them were carried to Al-Thawra Hospital, 5 to the Military Hospital, and one to Al-Jumhuri Hospital. He also indicated that the injured in the his hospital were three, among them was the Al-Qa’ida Security Office Manager, Major Ali Al-lahibi.
Local sources in the area state that the true number of deaths is 13, and there is preservation from the Security about the true number of victims. On the other hand, the number of injured had exceeded 40, 10 of them with light injuries and have left the hospital.
Was it a coincidence?
The issue although might seem as a normal police – smuggler chase operation, which resulted in a mistakenly shot bullet that caused the explosion, but there might be another side for the story which the security people are concealing. As one villager said to us the other day, “the car’s existence in that area was not a coincidence after all. The owner of the car that carried the explosives was a well known person by the police for his criminal record in carrying explosives. It is worth to mention that last Saturday, the police held the car market owner in Ibb, who gave the guarantee on the car.”To know the truth behind this incident, all we need to do is wait and see!