Travel Warning – Yemen March 19, 2008

Published by Chris Harvey March 25, 2008

United States Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520

March 19, 2008

This Travel Warning updates information on security incidents in Yemen. On March 19, the Department of State authorized the departure from Yemen of non-emergency American employees of the U.S. Embassy and eligible family members. 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 at http://yemen.usembassy.gov and should make contingency emergency plans. This supersedes the Travel Warning for Yemen issued September 24, 2007.

The Department of State authorized the voluntary departure for embassy employees and eligible family members after several explosions targeted the embassy compound on March 18. The explosions injured several Yemeni citizens, including government security personnel and schoolchildren. Embassy employees have been advised to avoid hotels, restaurants and tourist areas until further notice and are not authorized to travel outside of Sanaa.

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to consider deferring non-essential travel to Yemen at this time. The security threat level remains high due to terrorist activities in Yemen. U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in Yemen despite this warning should exercise caution and take prudent measures including maintaining a high level of vigilance, avoid crowds and demonstrations, keep a low profile, vary times and routes for all travel, and ensure travel documents are current. The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa advises American citizens in Yemen to exercise particular caution at locations frequented by foreigners countrywide and at 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 (http://usembassy.state.gov/yemen/citizen_services.html) to get the most 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 July 2, 2007, suspected al- Qa’ida 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-Qa’ida may represent an escalation in terror tactics in Yemen.

On February 3, 2006, 23 convicts, including known affiliates of al-Qa’ida, escaped from a high-security prison in the capital city, Sanaa. Among the al-Qa’ida associates were individuals imprisoned for their roles in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole and the 2002 attack on the French oil tanker Limburg. In the weeks following the escape, some prisoners voluntarily turned themselves in to authorities; to date however, some escapees 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 Sanaa of four suspected Al Qa’ida operatives, who had stockpiled explosives and weapons. Additionally, on December 5, 2006, a lone gunman opened small arms fire outside of the U.S. Embassy compound during the early morning hours. The assailant, wounded by host-nation security personnel and subsequently arrested, was the sole casualty.

Since January 2007, the Government of Yemen has been battling al Houthi rebels in and around the northern governorate of Saada. While foreigners have not been targeted, hundreds of soldiers and civilians have been killed in the ongoing violence. 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 Sanaa, such as the governorates of Amran, Al Jawf, Hajja, Marib, Saada, and Shabwa. Travelers should be in contact with the Embassy for up-to-date information on such restrictions.

U.S. citizens who remain in or travel to Yemen despite this Travel Warning should register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa and enroll in the warden system (emergency alert network) in order to obtain updated information on travel and security in Yemen. This can be done online prior to arrival in Yemen at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs.

The U.S. Embassy 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. The fax number is (967) (1) 303-175. The after hours emergency number is (967) (1) 755-2000 (press zero for extension) or (967) 733213509. 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. U.S. citizens should consult the Consular Information Sheet for Yemen, and the Worldwide Caution on the Department’s Internet site at http://travel.state.gov. Up-to-date information on security conditions can also be accessed at http://usembassy.state.gov/yemen/citizen_services.html.

Squaremouth recommends travel insurance for all your overseas trips.