Tue, Mar 17, 2009 - Page 6 News List

South Korea sends team to Yemen after blast kills five


Four South Korean tourists and their guide were killed by a bomb while watching the sunset at a historic desert city in Yemen, officials said yesterday, as Seoul sent a team to probe the attack.

The bomb on Sunday evening killed two men and two women who were among a group of South Korean tourists visiting Shibam in southeastern Hadramawt Province, a Yemeni interior ministry spokesman said.

The group’s Yemeni guide, wounded in the attack, died later in hospital, the spokesman said, as cited by the official Saba news agency.

Five other South Koreans — three women and two men — and a Yemeni were wounded, he said.

Yemeni officials had earlier given the toll as four South Korean tourists killed and four wounded.

On Sunday, a Yemeni security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the blast was caused by a bomb.

“The explosion happened as they were gathered on a hill called Khazzan that overlooks the city. They were on foot and taking pictures of the buildings in Shibam at the moment the sun went down,” he said.

In Seoul, a foreign ministry statement confirmed the death of two South Korean men and two women in an explosion.

The 11 other members of the tour group were flown to the capital Sanaa on a special plane provided by Yemeni authorities.

The wounded are in hospital but not in critical condition, a ministry official told Yonhap news agency.

The Seoul government called an emergency meeting of security and other agencies and yesterday ordered a four-person team to the country, made up of two foreign ministry officials as well as representatives of the national police and the intelligence agency.

“The government expresses deep condolence to the victims and the bereaved families,” ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young said in a statement.

The ministry designated the entire country as a “travel restriction” area and strongly advised its citizens to avoid it.

“When most tourists had got off the jeep and were enjoying the sunset and the surroundings, there was suddenly a bomb explosion. In a second, a hellish situation followed,” travel agent Ma Kyong-chan, who organized the trip, told Yonhap.

Shibam, some 800km southeast of Sanaa, is a UNESCO world heritage site well known for its high-rise mud-brick buildings.

In January last year two Belgian tourists were shot dead along with their local guide and driver in Hadramawt.

Two months later the US embassy was the target of mortar fire that missed and hit a school, killing two people.

A car bomb attack in Marib, also east of Sanaa, in July 2007 killed eight Spanish holidaymakers and two Yemeni drivers.

That attack took place at the entrance to Mahram Bilqis, an ancient temple that legend says belonged to the Queen of Sheba.

In January the local al-Qaeda branch announced in a video message posted on the Internet the merging of the Saudi and Yemeni branches into “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” led by a Yemeni called Nasser al-Wahaishi.

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