Yemen steps up security after suicide-bomber attack

4 July, 2007:

Yemen has stepped up security around government buildings and tourist hotspots after a suspected al-Qaeda suicide bomber killed seven Spanish tourists and two Yemenis at a tourist site.

The suicide bomber struck the tour group at an archaeological site in Yemen’s eastern province of Marib.

The bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a five-car convoy, which included a police car.

It was one of the deadliest bombings in recent times targeting foreigners in Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, which has been battling a number of attacks by the Al-Qaeda network of late.

Witnesses said the attack occurred as the tourists were wrapping up a tour of a temple in Marib, which dates back 3,000 years to the time of the biblical Queen of Sheba.

Yemen’s Interior Ministry said preliminary information indicates that Al-Qaeda is behind the cowardly attack in Marib.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Locals said that body parts were strewn around the charred and damaged vehicles used by the Spaniards.

Tribal sources said the bomb was heard as far as 20 kilometres away from the site of attack, near the Mahram Bilquis, or the temple of the moon god.
Quoting security sources, Reuters reported that the attack followed an Al-Qaeda statement a week ago demanding the release of some of its members jailed in Yemen and threatening to take unspecified action.

In all, 36 Yemenis are currently on trial, charged with planning and carrying out attacks for Al-Qaeda, but several are on the run after tunneling their way out of a prison in Sanaa in February 2006 and are being tried in absentia.

Yemen, a volatile country on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, has been widely seen in the West as a haven for Islamist militants, including Al-Qaeda supporters.

Yemen joined the United States-led war on terrorism launched after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States and has been battling Islamist militants for years.

It had foiled two suicide attacks on oil and gas installations in 2006, days after Al-Qaeda urged Muslims to target Western interests. Al-Qaeda's wing in Yemen had then claimed responsibility for the foiled attacks and vowed more strikes.

In 2002, militants bombed the French oil supertanker Limburg off Yemen’s coast. In 2000, a suicide attack on the United States warship USS Cole killed 17 US sailors.

Hundreds of tourists and foreigners working in Yemen have been kidnapped over the last decade by tribesmen demanding better schools, roads and services, or the release of jailed relatives.

Most hostages were released unharmed, but in 2000 a Norwegian diplomat was killed in a crossfire and, in 1998, four Westerners were killed during a failed army attempt to free them from Islamist militants who had seized 16 tourists.




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