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Cablegate: Travel Warning: Yemen

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 STATE 017616

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CASC PTER ASEC YM
SUBJECT: TRAVEL WARNING: YEMEN

STATE 00017616 001.2 OF 003


1. 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.

2. 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.

3. U.S. Embassy employees have been advised to
exercise caution when choosing restaurants,
hotels or visiting tourist areas in Sanaa in
order to avoid large gatherings of foreigners and
expatriates. Only limited travel outside of the
capital is authorized at this time.

4. 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.

5. The Department remains concerned about
possible attacks by extremist individuals or
groups against U.S. citizens, facilities,
businesses, and perceived interests. On June 12,

STATE 00017616 002.2 OF 003


2009, seven Germans, one Briton, and one South
Korean were kidnapped in Saada 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.

6. 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.

7. 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, Sa'ada, and Shabwa.
Travelers should be in contact with the Embassy
for up-to-date information on such restrictions.

8. 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.

9. 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

STATE 00017616 003.2 OF 003


in Yemen. This can be done online prior to
arrival in Yemen at State Department's travel
registration website.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. Minimize considered.
CLINTON

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