March 16, 2009 / 2:43 PM / 10 years ago

Qaeda suicide bomber behind Yemen tourist attack

SANAA (Reuters) - An al Qaeda suicide bomber was behind a deadly attack that killed four South Korean tourists in Yemen Sunday, a Yemeni security official said Monday.

A South Korean survivor sits in a wheelchair at Sanaa International Airport March 16, 2009, before departing for Seoul via Dubai. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

The attack, which is likely to take a toll on the impoverished Arab country’s tourism sector, came after repeated calls by al Qaeda militant leaders to target non-Muslim foreigners in the Arabian Peninsula.

Insecurity in Yemen has affected international companies developing Yemen’s oil and gas sector, while attacks on foreigners — including kidnappings by disgruntled tribesmen — have hit tourism, Western diplomats say.

“A suicide bomber who belonged to al Qaeda carried out the attack using an explosive belt,” the official told Reuters, about the attack in which a Yemeni man was also killed.

A newspaper, al-Ayam, said the remains of an unidentified man were found at the site.

The country has for years been battling al Qaeda and similar groups. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

A security official said Sunday it was not clear if the blast was caused by remnants of dynamite or an explosive device.

The blast at a tourist site in the southeastern city of Shibam also injured three other South Koreans. The injured and nine other members of the South Korean tourist group left the capital Sanaa on their way home earlier Monday.

The attack occurred as the tourists were visiting the city, a UNESCO World Heritage site dubbed the “Manhattan of the desert” for its 16th-century tower houses which rise up to 16 storeys.

In January 2008, two Belgian tourists were killed in Yemen in an attack blamed on al Qaeda-linked militants who have launched frequent attacks on government and Western targets, including the U.S. embassy, a U.S. warship and a French supertanker.

Reporting by Mohamed Sudam and Mohammed Ghobari; writing by Inal Ersan; Editing by Dominic Evans

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