As French government warns visitors traveling to Yemen of potential terrorist attacks against foreigners,Total Oil Group says there are no exceptional security measures or employee transfers [Archives:2008/1178/Front Page]

August 4 2008

Aqeel Al-Halali
For the Yemen Times

SANA'A, Aug. 2 ) An official source at the private French-owned Total Oil Group working in Yemen says the company has taken no exceptional security measures in response to the French government's recent warning to its citizens traveling to Yemen to be on the alert for possible terrorist attacks against foreigners.

“No changes have occurred and we've taken no exceptional precautions,” said a Total administrative manager. “Total already has returned 30 children of its employees to France as a precaution to secure the families.”

Regarding the reasons for the French warning, Total's spokesperson said the company had no idea why it was released at this particular time, noting that the warning came from the French government, not Total, a private company unaffiliated with the French government.

France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ministry cautioned its citizens against traveling to Yemen as a “precaution against kidnapping and terrorist attacks against Westerners,” in light of what the ministry called Yemen's “security deterioration.” The ministry also advised its citizens desiring to travel to Yemen for tourism to postpone such tours.

“There's been no change in security procedures following the French warning,” Total's head security official Osama Al-Halali said, adding that the Yemeni government has been implementing a tightened security plan to protect foreign interests in Yemen.

Al-Halali pointed out that, despite this warning, some French employees working at Total remain determined to visit various Yemeni governorates.

“This warning hasn't affected the spirit of the company's French employees, as not one has requested to travel to France,” says Rehab Al-Shaibani, director of employee affairs for the company.

Yemeni Foreign Affairs Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi calls the warning “unjustified,” noting that Yemeni security apparatuses have taken all required measures against any potential terrorist attacks.

“Security forces have increased their readiness to protect all foreign interests and citizens in Yemen and repel any acts of sabotage,” Al-Qirbi stated, adding, “Such warnings only serve the terrorists.”

He further emphasized that terrorist acts occur the world over, not only in Yemen. “Terrorism exempts no country and all efforts should come together in order to fight it,” Al-Qirbi said.

Yemen's state-run Saba news agency reports that Denis Douvenau, first consul at the French Embassy in Sana'a, met with Yemeni Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Muthana Hassan. According to Saba, the meeting focused on “enhancing bilateral relations and mutual cooperation.”

There was no reference to the French warning against travel to Yemen, which noted that Yemen has witnessed a notable increase in terrorist attacks, many claimed by Al-Qaeda, during the past year.

Since the beginning of 2008, Yemen has witnessed terrorist attacks that have left approximately 35 dead, including six soldiers and two female tourists. The attacks also left some 91 people with injuries, most of them Yemeni citizens.

Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for an attack on a Belgian tour group in Hadramout in January, as well as two attacks targeting the Italian and U.S. Embassies in Sana'a this past March and April.

Following April's mortar attack, the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a ordered nonessential staff to leave Yemen, while Italy's Foreign Affairs Ministry warned its citizens against traveling to Yemen due to the risk of terrorist attacks.