Yemen Travel Warning
Issued by US Department of State
Feb 25, 2010
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities. The Department recommends that American citizens defer non-essential travel to Yemen. American citizens remaining in Yemen despite this warning should monitor the U.S. Embassy website and should make contingency emergency plans. This replaces the Travel Warning for Yemen issued June 26, 2009.
The security threat level remains high due to terrorist activities in Yemen. The U.S. Embassy in Sana'a, Yemen closed on January 3 and 4, 2010, in response to ongoing threats by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to attack American interests in Yemen. Following the attempted attack aboard Northwest Airlines flight 253 on December 25, 2009, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) publicly claimed responsibility for the incident and stated that it was in response to what they described as American interference in Yemen. In the same statement, the group made threats against Westerners working in embassies and elsewhere, characterizing them as "unbelievers" and "crusaders." On the morning of September 17, 2008, armed terrorists attacked the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a, Yemen. A number of explosions occurred in the vicinity of the Embassy's main gate. Several Yemeni security personnel and one Embassy security guard were killed, as were a few individuals waiting to gain entry to the Embassy, one of whom was a U.S. citizen.
U.S. Embassy employees have been advised to exercise caution when choosing restaurants, hotels or visiting tourist areas in Sana'a in order to avoid large gatherings of foreigners and expatriates. Only limited travel outside of the capital is authorized at this time.
U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in Yemen despite this warning should exercise caution and take prudent security measures, including maintaining a high level of vigilance, avoiding crowds and demonstrations, keeping a low profile, varying times and routes for all travel, and ensuring travel documents are current. American citizens in Yemen are advised to exercise particular caution at locations frequented by foreigners countrywide, including restaurants and hotels frequented by expatriates. From time to time, the Embassy may restrict official Americans from restaurants, hotels, or shopping areas. The Department of State strongly encourages American citizens to consult the most recent Warden Messages on the U.S. Embassy website to get up-to-date information on security conditions. Americans who believe they are being followed or threatened while driving in urban centers should proceed as quickly as possible to the nearest police station or major intersection and request assistance from the officers in the blue-and-white police cars stationed there.
The Department remains concerned about possible attacks by extremist individuals or groups against U.S. citizens, facilities, businesses, and perceived interests. On June 12, 2009, seven Germans, one Briton, and one South Korean were kidnapped in Sa'ada resulting in three confirmed deaths. There have been no claims of responsibility in this incident and the investigation is ongoing. On March 15, 2009, four South Korean tourists were killed in a suicide bomb attack in the city of Shibam in southern Hadramout province. On March 18, 2009, a South Korean motorcade was attacked by a suicide bomber near Sana'a International Airport. On January 17, 2008, suspected al-Qaeda operatives ambushed a tourist convoy in the eastern Hadramout Governorate, killing two Belgians. On July 2, 2007, suspected al-Qaeda operatives carried out a vehicle-borne explosive device attack on tourists at the Belquis Temple in Marib, which resulted in the deaths of eight Spanish tourists and two Yemenis. The targeting of tourist sites by al-Qaeda may represent an escalation in terror tactics in Yemen. On February 3, 2006, 23 convicts, including known affiliates of al-Qaeda, escaped from a high-security prison in Sana'a, some of whom remain at large. Two of the escapees were killed in vehicle-based suicide attacks on oil facilities near Mukalla and Marib on September 15, 2006. Those attacks were followed by the arrest the next day in Sana'a of four suspected al-Qaeda operatives, who had stockpiled explosives and weapons.
The Government of Yemen has been battling al Houthi rebels in and around the northern governorate of Sa'ada intermittently since 2004. A ceasefire was announced on February 12, 2010.
U.S. citizens traveling in Yemen should be aware that local authorities occasionally place restrictions on the travel of foreigners to parts of the country experiencing unrest. In addition, the U.S. Embassy itself often restricts travel of official personnel to the tribal areas north and east of Sana'a, such as the governorates of Amran, al-Jawf, Hajja, Marib, Sa'ada, and Shabwa. Travelers should be in contact with the Embassy for up-to-date information on such restrictions.
Travel by boat through the Red Sea or near the Socotra Islands in the Gulf of Aden presents the risk of pirate attacks. In 2009, over 70 vessels were reportedly attacked. Since the beginning of 2010, 4 vessels reportedly have been seized in the area, with one released in February. As of February 2010, 11 vessels were believed to be held for ransom, including the yacht of a British couple. Following the April 2009 hijacking of a U.S. cargo vessel and the subsequent rescue of the vessel's captain, resulting in the deaths of three pirates, Somali pirates threatened to retaliate against American citizens transiting the region. The threat of piracy extends into the Indian Ocean off the Horn of Africa as well. See our International Maritime Piracy Fact Sheet. If travel to any of these areas is unavoidable, travelers may reduce the risk to personal security if such travel is undertaken by air or with an armed escort provided by a local tour company.
U.S. citizens should register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a and enroll in the warden system (emergency alert network) to obtain updated information on travel and security in Yemen. This can be done online prior to arrival in Yemen at State Department's travel registration website.
The U.S. Embassy, Sana'a is located at Dhahr Himyar Zone, Sheraton Hotel District, P.O. Box 22347. The telephone number of the Consular Section is (967) (1) 755-2000, extension 2153 or 2266. For after-hours emergencies, please call (967) (1) 755-2000 (press zero for extension) or (967) 733-213-509. From time to time the Embassy may temporarily close or suspend public services for security reasons. Emergency assistance to U.S. citizens during non-business hours (or when public access is restricted) is available through Embassy duty personnel.
Current information on travel and security in Yemen may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 within the United States and Canada or, from outside the United States and Canada, 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00am to 8:00pm Eastern Time Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays.) U.S. citizens should consult the Country Specific Information for Yemen and the Worldwide Caution on the State Department's Internet site. Up-to-date information on security conditions can also be viewed at U.S. Embassy Sana'a's American Citizens Services web page.