Middle East

Suicide bomber at Yemeni temple kills 9

Updated: 2007-07-03 01:33
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An al-Qaida suicide bomber blew himself up Monday at the site of an ancient temple popular with tourists, killing seven Spaniards and two Yemenis less than two weeks after the U.S. Embassy issued a terror warning about the area.
Suicide bomber at Yemeni temple kills 9
The wreckage of one of the cars in a convoy damaged by a car bomb attack is seen in the Yemeni province of Marib July 2, 2007. Six Spanish tourists and one Yemeni were killed in the attack by a suspected al Qaeda suicide car bomber in Marib on Monday, security sources said. [REUTERS]
Suicide bomber at Yemeni temple kills 9

Witnesses said the bomber drove a car through the gate of the temple compound, and the vehicle exploded near the structure, which was built about 3,000 years ago and dedicated to the Queen of Sheba.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack in the central Marib province, about 85 miles east of the capital San'a, but authorities linked the suicide bomber to al-Qaida. Police said they received information last month about a possible al-Qaida attack.

Less than two weeks ago, the U.S. Embassy warned Americans to avoid the area. On June 23 in the neighboring Shabwa province, a Yemeni guard opened fire on a group of foreign oil workers shortly after they landed at a company airstrip, killing one and wounding five — including an American.

The provincial governor said at the time that the guard was mentally ill, but the U.S. Embassy in San'a canceled travel to the two provinces "for the near future" and recommended that Americans avoid the area.

Al-Qaida has an active presence in Yemen, the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, despite government efforts to fight the terror network. Al-Qaida was blamed for the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden that killed 17 American sailors and the attack on a French oil tanker that killed one person two years later.

Yemen was a haven for Islamists from across the Arab world during the 1990s, but after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, it declared support for the U.S. campaign against international terrorism.

But its crackdown on militants has suffered a number of setbacks, such as the February 2006 prison breakout of 23 convicts — some of whom had been jailed for al-Qaida-linked crimes.

Foreign interests in Yemen often face low-level threats and tourists are frequently kidnapped by tribes seeking to win concessions from the government, either better services or the release of jailed relatives. Most of the hostages have been released unharmed.