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Yemen security officials say they feared al-Qaida attack, but not against tourists

(AP) Yemeni security officials had been warned about a possible al-Qaida attack, but said Tuesday they did not think it would include the suicide bombing that killed a group of Spanish tourists visiting a remote temple. A regional official blamed the terrorist group for Monday’s attack by a suicide bomber who plowed his car into people visiting a temple linked to the ancient Queen of Sheba, killing seven Spaniards and two Yemenis. Governor Arief al-Zoka said the “security apparatus are chasing the plotters.” “This is a big terrorist attack,” al-Zoka said, adding that “al-Qaida is behind it.” A security official said al-Qaida had warned recently it would carry out attacks against Yemeni oil facilities, government institutions and foreign embassies. Security was heightened at those facilities, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “What happened yesterday was unexpected,” the official said. “They managed to mislead us.” Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh offered a $76,000 reward for information about those behind the attack, which occurred in a part of Yemen known for its lawlessness and al-Qaida sympathies. Both the governments of Spain and the United States have warned against travel to the area, which until recently was rarely visited because of frequent kidnappings of foreigners. The U.S. Embassy banned its employees from leaving the capital, San’a, and canceled its July 4 celebrations. It also said it had restricted the movement of employees in the capital. The embassy urged Americans in Yemen to “avoid large crowds and demonstrations, keep a low profile, vary times and routes for all travel, and ensure travel documents are current.” Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said the attacker drove into the middle of a convoy transporting the Spanish tourists, killing seven, including three women, and wounding five. Two Yemenis also died, according to Yemen’s Interior Ministry. Witnesses reported seeing a car drive into the group of tourists on a road outside the site of the 3,000-year-old temple, which is known in Yemen by its Arabic name, Balqis, in the central province of Marib. A group of teenagers playing soccer said they heard gunshots before the attack. “I heard gunfire, then the car rammed into the four cars carrying the tourists,” 16-year-old Mohammed al-Margabi said. Other witnesses said the car with the bomber was parked about 50 yards away from the temple and he blew it up when the tourists approached. The vehicles carrying the tourists resembled mangled iron skeletons with human remains scattered along the wreckage along with women’s clothing, a bag, shoes, and picnic items. According to the security official, al-Qaida was responsible for the killing of one senior provincial official two months ago. A number of known al-Qaida operatives remain at large in Yemen, part of a group of two dozen who escaped from a prison last year. Yemen is the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, and the Marib region is home to four powerful tribes with more than 70 branches and is known to be a hotbed of support for al-Qaida. About 100 foreigners have been kidnapped in the area since the 1990s. As a result, tourists are a rare sight, and travelers who want to go to Marib must drive there as part of a convoy escorted by armed soldiers, though more tourists have been visiting the area lately.

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July 3, 2007 - Posted by | Blogroll, news, personal, politics, random, religion, Terrorism, Terrorism In The U.S., Terrorism News, Uncategorized, War-On-Terror

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