Political Analysis

US updates Saudi Arabia, Yemen travel warnings

National Yemen

Yemeni tribes in a tribal gathering near by the capital of Yemen Sana'a

By: Mark Rockwell

Citing continued levels of terror cell activities and dangerous conditions, the U.S. State Department updated separate travel warnings for Saudi Arabia and Yemen on Nov. 19.

The department’s Nov. 19 update on Yemen said the threat levels for U.S. citizens in the country remain “extremely high” because of terrorist activity, civil unrest and violent crime. It urged U.S. citizens not to travel there and advised current U.S. travelers in the country to leave.

It noted the September mob attack on the U.S. Embassy compound in Sanaa and continued demonstrations that could turn violent are a threat to U.S. travelers. Terrorist organizations like Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), continue to be active in Yemen. Reports have said the attack on the embassy in Sanaa was a coordinated assault by a terror group.

The U.S. government said it remains highly concerned about possible attacks against U.S. citizens and U.S. facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and western interests in the country. AQAP, it said, had claimed responsibility for an attack in the city of Taiz in March that killed a U.S. citizen.

Terrorism isn’t the only problem as violent crime has also claimed the lives of U.S. citizens. In October, two U.S. citizens living in Aden, near the Red Sea were murdered, it said. Piracy in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Indian Ocean remains a security threat to maritime activities in the region.

The U.S. embassy in Yemen, said the department, has restricted staffing levels and its ability to help travelers in trouble is limited.

The State Department urged U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of traveling to Saudi Arabia in the Nov. 19 update, citing the Aug. 26 arrests of two terrorist cells by Saudi security authorities as evidence of ongoing terrorist activity. It said an ongoing threat exists in the country from terror groups, some affiliated with Al Qaeda. The groups, it said could target western interests, including housing compounds, hotels, shopping areas, and other facilities where westerners gather.

The terrorist groups, it said, could use small-scale attacks and target Saudi government facilities and economic/commercial targets within the country.