Italian embassy “working normally” after presumed attack [Archives:2008/1153/Local News]

May 8 2008

By: Sarah Wolff

SANA’A, May 7 ) The Italian embassy and Italian visitors to Yemen said they will go on with business as normal after Al-Qaeda took credit for an attempted mortar attack near the Italian embassy on April 30, while Yemen’s tourism sector continues to struggle in the wake of similar incidents.

On an Al-Qaeda affiliated website, a group calling themselves the Yemeni Soldiers Brigade announced that they had launched a mortar attack targeting the Italian embassy three days after the incident. However, the two mortars hit the pavement outside of a governmental customs building near the embassy and did not cause any injuries or fatalities.

“[The objective] was to make the infidels leave the Arabian Peninsula and to avenge all Muslim victims for the worldwide crusader campaign,” said the statement, which has been reprinted throughout the international media.

The Italian Ambassador to Yemen, Mario Boffo, said that all the employees of the embassy are still working and there are no new releases or official statements advising embassy staff to return home or to warn Italians about traveling in the country. “We are working normally,” said Boffo. “We advise our citizens to be prudent and adapt a low profile.”

However, Boffo noted that they have had a stronger travel warning on the embassy’s website,, since the attempted attacks on the U.S. embassy and the foreign residential compound. Boffo added that he hoped there would not be any more attacks, but it was difficult to tell what the future will hold for Italians in Yemen. Boffo has been Italy’s ambassador to Yemen and Djibouti since 2005.

Tourism affected by terrorist attacks

Deputy Director of the Tourism Promotion Council (TPC) Alwan Al-Shibani told the state-run Saba News Agency on May 3 that he believed the attacks during the last year have hurt tourism to Yemen and influenced tour groups to travel to neighboring countries instead. “For example, a few days ago, four Italian tourist groups were planning to visit a number of Yemeni archaeological sites but they went to Oman at the last moment due warnings of [from] their country. The travel warnings created restrictions on insurance ratio which affected the development of tourism in our country,” Al-Shibani told Saba News Agency.

However, a representative from the Arabia Felix tourist hotel in old Sana’a said that their hotel had not been affected by the attacks or increasing worries about security inside the country. “We have not had a problem,” he said.

Yemen’s tourism industry, which was recovering after the attacks both last year and in early 2008 that killed Spanish and Belgian visitors to the country, has now slid into decline once again. Al-Shaibani added in his statements that that the Tourism Promotion Council has been trying to change Yemen’s image in the international media by holding exhibitions and participating in international tourism promotional events abroad.

However, Al-Shaibani said that the outreach effort isn’t enough, and called on the government to prepare a national tourism strategy. He also suggested that the government take charge of the high-traffic archeological sites in the country instead of leaving their upkeep and security to local tribes.

Tourism accounts for approximately two percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with the main revenue coming from dwindling oil supplies.