Yemen – one of the most dangerous countries in the world?

sanddyn_helbild_dag_4 Life is very much about taking the right choices, to dare, where others fail to see the possibilities. That is the gut feeling I have about going to Yemen to study Arabic. I just have to go no matter what. Choosing Yemen, of course, is also a good choice when you look at the upcoming Expedition , since then I will find out the difficulties passing Yemen by camel. I bet the capital will be far easier….Anyway, I did check the Internet a couple of days ago to make risk assessment, and I began to visit, as usual, the US government and see what they said about going to Yemen:

YEMEN April 24, 2009

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.

The Department remains concerned about possible attacks by extremist individuals or groups against U.S. citizens, facilities, businesses, and perceived interests.  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-Qa’ida operatives ambushed a tourist convoy in the eastern Hadramout Governorate, killing two Belgians.  On July 2, 2007, suspected al-Qa’ida 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-Qa’ida may represent an escalation in terror tactics in Yemen.  On February 3, 2006, 23 convicts, including known affiliates of al-Qa’ida, escaped from a high-security prison in Sanaa, 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 Sanaa of four suspected al Qa’ida operatives, who had stockpiled explosives and weapons.

I have heard this about many other countries I have been through and instead of having problems, have come across some of the nicest people on earth. However, I did ask around amongst experts in my own category of work and one of them said:

Mikael,

It’s not the media I am getting my information from. I would strongly advise against being in Yemen until the situation regarding the increased Al Qaeda presence in the country is more properly understood. The tribal elements in the north are one thing, the secessionist movement in the south another, but Al Qaeda are gearing up for major attacks against all western elements in the country. Looking at the modus operandi of the different groups, I suspect that the attack on foreigners in Saada is more likely to be AQ than Houthi. The government has tried to pin the blame on the Houthi rebels.

The security situation is likely to deteriorate rapidly as AQ are able to reform with experienced fighters being driven from Afghanistan and Pakistan. More will become clear in the coming months, but I would say that going to Yemen at the moment is not safe.

I am not usually one to avoid a country based on security reports, but I have added Yemen to the list of Somalia and parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan as no go areas. Tribal kidnapping is one thing, torture, mutilation and killing by AQ is another.

Now this is serious, because this guy is a good human and a responsible explorer, but, I thought, I will talk to people who actually lives in Yemen and got this response:

Mikael,

It is too early to say who is behind the killings in Sada’a.  I expect it to be Al Houthi rebels.  Yemen is currently deteriorating, but we do not yet know how far it will deteriorate and only time will tell.  I would not in the least be concerned about studying Arabic in Yemen and this will give you a chance to also get a feel for the place yourself.  I have no worries about going back, but would not go to Ma’arib or some of these areas unless with the right people and knew I was secure.  It is Abyan – where I went through is the worry as well as Sada’a up north.   AL qaeda is only in ABYAN at this time.

Exactly what I wanted to hear and which I figure is the truth about the situation. Anyway, I have decided to go and I tell you, it is a long time since I have felt as stimulated and worried at the same time! just what I need now,  a time totally dominated by the fatigue and light depression of trying to get a Expedition together at the same time dealing with the tacky side of life involving daily life in Sweden…..Well, now, I just have to book the ticket!

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