May 10, 2017
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Yemen because of the high security threat level posed by ongoing conflict and terrorist activities. The Department of State updated this Travel Warning in October 2016 to reflect concerns regarding detentions of U.S. citizens by armed groups in Sanaa, and this threat remains unchanged. The Department continues to urge U.S. citizens to defer all travel to Yemen. We urge U.S. citizens currently living in Yemen to depart as soon as they are able to safely do so. This supersedes the Travel Warning for Yemen issued on October 6, 2016.
Since the beginning of the conflict in March 2015, rebel groups in Sanaa have systematically detained U.S. citizens. Reports indicate that U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, are being targeted by virtue of their citizenship, regardless of the amount of time they have spent in Yemen, their established connections with the rebel groups, or their connections with local businesses or humanitarian organizations aimed at providing relief to those in need. During their detentions, which in some cases have lasted over a year, U.S. citizens have not been able to contact their families or be visited by U.S. consular personnel or international humanitarian organizations. The U.S. government’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in detention is severely limited. There is no U.S. government presence on the ground following the rebel takeover of Sanaa. The Department of State suspended embassy operations and U.S. Embassy Sanaa American staff relocated out of the country in February 2015. All consular services, routine and/or emergency, are suspended until further notice.
In addition to the threat of detention by rebel groups, there are other risks due to ongoing conflict and heightened terrorist activity, including kidnappings for ransom. In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition initiated an air campaign in support of the exiled Yemeni government. A nationwide cessation of hostilities deteriorated in August 2016, and high levels of violence, to include armed conflict, artillery shelling, and air strikes, now persist in areas throughout the country. There are also reports of land mines being placed in areas vacated by withdrawing forces, as well as mining of Red Sea ports. Military conflict has caused significant damage to infrastructure, limiting the availability of electricity, clean water, and medical care. This instability often hampers the ability of humanitarian organizations to deliver critically needed food, medicine, and water.
In addition, the threat posed by violent extremist groups in Yemen remains high. Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) expanded its influence in Yemen since the beginning of the conflict. Because of the instability and violence in Yemen, the internationally recognized government cannot effectively enforce counterterrorism measures and a large security vacuum persists. AQAP, in particular, has benefitted from the conflict by significantly expanding its presence in the southern and eastern governorates. ISIL also has established a presence in Yemen, and has claimed responsibility for a number of deadly attacks in the country. AQAP and ISIL-Y terrorists carried out hundreds of attacks throughout Yemen in 2016. Methods included suicide bombers, VBIEDs, ambushes, kidnappings, and targeted assassinations. The U.S. government remains extremely concerned about possible attacks on U.S. citizens (whether visiting or residing in Yemen), and U.S. facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests.
Vessels in the region of the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, and the Gulf of Aden should operate under a heightened state of alert as increasing tensions in the region escalate the potential for direct or collateral damage to vessels transiting the region. These threats may come from a variety of different sources such as missiles, projectiles, or waterborne improvised explosive devices. Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for an October 1, 2016, attack on a UAE vessel, and missiles were fired at the USS Mason from Houthi-held territory that same month. A maritime advisory is currently in effect for Yemen as a result of regional tensions. Piracy is also a concern in the area.
The United States is also concerned about the risks to civil aviation operating in specified areas of the Sanaa (OYSC) Flight Information Region (FIR) due to the ongoing military operations, political instability, and violence from competing armed groups involved in combat operations and other military-related activity. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has prohibited U.S. civil aviation from flying in specific areas within the Sanaa FIR. For additional background information regarding FAA flight prohibitions and advisories for U.S. civil aviation, U.S. citizens should consult the Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices.
For U.S. citizen inquiries, you may send an email to YEMENEMERGENCYUSC@state.gov.
For further information:
- See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Specific Information for Yemen.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency. As cell phone service is unreliable in Yemen, emergency calls may also be placed through the Department of State at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries.
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