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Yemen Travel Warning

Issued by US Department of State

Oct 15, 2010

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities. The Department strongly recommends that U.S. citizens defer non-essential travel to Yemen. U.S. citizens remaining in Yemen despite this warning should make contingency emergency plans and monitor the U.S. Embassy website. This replaces the Travel Warning for Yemen issued February 25, 2010, to update information on security incidents and concerns.

Terrorist organizations are active in Yemen, including Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). AQAP claimed responsibility for a September 25, 2010, attack in Sana’a during which two unidentified gunmen fired on a bus belonging to the Political Security Organization (PSO). Ten Yemeni security agents were wounded, two seriously. AQAP also publicly claimed responsibility for the attempted attack aboard Northwest Airlines flight 253 on December 25, 2009, declaring it a response to “American interference in Yemen.” In the same statement, the group made threats against Westerners working in embassies and elsewhere

There have been other terrorist incidents in Sana’a. On October 6, 2010, the motorcade of the British Deputy Head of Mission was attacked by an unknown number of assailants. One member of the British Embassy staff was injured. On April 26, 2010, the motorcade of the British Ambassador to Yemen was attacked in Sana’a by a lone suicide bomber. The U.S. Embassy in Sana’a closed for two days in January 2010 in response to ongoing threats against U.S. interests in Yemen. On the morning of September 17, 2008, armed terrorists attacked the U.S. Embassy, setting off a number of explosions in the vicinity of the Embassy's main gate. Several Yemeni security personnel and one Embassy security guard were killed, as were several individuals waiting to gain entry into the Embassy, including a U.S. citizen.

The U.S. government remains concerned about possible attacks against U.S. citizens, facilities, businesses, and perceived interests. On May 24, 2010, armed Yemeni tribesmen kidnapped two U.S. citizen tourists and their Yemeni driver and translator near Sana’a. On June 12, 2009, seven Germans, one Briton, and one South Korean were kidnapped in Sa’ada. Two German children were later released; three nurses were killed. The whereabouts and welfare of the other hostages are still unknown. There have been no claims of responsibility for this incident and the investigation is ongoing. On March 18, 2009, a South Korean motorcade was attacked by a suicide bomber near Sana'a International Airport. 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 January 17, 2008, suspected Al-Qaeda operatives ambushed a tourist convoy in the eastern Hadramout Governorate, killing two Belgians.

U.S. Embassy employees have been advised to exercise caution when visiting restaurants, hotels, or tourist areas in Sana’a in order to avoid large gatherings of foreigners. Travel outside the capital by Embassy personnel is often restricted.

The Yemeni government has been fighting against Houthi rebels in the North of the country since 2004. The fighting, which originated in Sa’ada Governorate, has spread to the neighboring governorates of al-Jawf, Amran, and Hajja. The government has used airstrikes to target the rebels, killing civilians on several occasions in 2009 and 2010. A tentative cease fire was declared on February 12, 2010. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid any travel to this region.

There is ongoing unrest in Aden and surrounding areas in the South of the country. A secessionist movement has repeatedly clashed with government forces in the area. Many protests by secessionists have turned into riots with loss of life. On June 19, 2010, the headquarters of the PSO were attacked in Aden. Several people, including security officials, were killed. AQAP claimed responsibility for the attack.

U.S. citizens traveling to Yemen should be aware that local authorities occasionally restrict foreigners’ travel to unstable parts of the country. In addition, the U.S. Embassy 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.

Boats traveling through the Red Sea or near the Socotra Islands in the Gulf of Aden are at risk of pirate attacks. More than 70 vessels were reportedly attacked in 2009. Since the beginning of 2010, 4 vessels have been reported 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 U.S. 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 who travel to or remain in Yemen despite this warning should be extremely cautious 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. U.S. citizens in Yemen should exercise particular caution at locations frequented by foreigners. From time to time, the Embassy restricts official U.S. personnel from visiting restaurants, hotels, or shopping areas. The Department of State strongly encourages U.S. citizens to consult the Warden Messages on the U.S. Embassy website for current information on security conditions. Travelers 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 blue and white police cars stationed there.

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 the 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 website.

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