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Korea grapples with second attack in Yemen

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SEOUL – The killing of four South Korean tourists and their Yemeni driver-guide in a suicide bombing in Yemen is having repercussions for South Korea far beyond the original incident.

In a followup attack Wednesday, a suicide bomber detonated explosives intended for a convoy carrying three South Korean officials and three members of victims’ families to the airport in Sanaa for a flight to historic Shibam, the site of Sunday’s bombings.

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The South Korean government ordered increased security for all its missions after the latest incident, in which the bomber killed himself but missed the convoy. The front windows of one of the vehicles were broken but no one was hurt.

The bombings are especially worrisome as South Korea prepares to begin importing natural gas from Yemen in June. The government promised to increase cooperation with other governments and also to raise awareness among South Koreans of the dangers of tourism to the region.

In an earlier high-profile incident, 23 South Korean Christians were kidnapped by Taliban operatives on a mission to Afghanistan in July 2007. One of them was killed before the rest were freed, purportedly after a large payoff (for a Monitor story on that event, click here).

Yemeni authorities attribute this week’s bombings to Al Qaeda, believed responsible for a number of incidents, including the ambush of a convoy of tourists in January 2008, in which two Belgians and their Yemeni driver were killed, and the suicide bombing in July 2007, in which eight Spaniards and two Yemenis were killed. Seventeen American sailors aboard the USS Cole were killed in 2000 when bombers blasted a hole in the side of a vessel in the Yemeni port of Aden.

The bodies of the four South Koreans killed Sunday, including two women and two men, were due to be returned here Thursday. Twelve family members, three of whom were slightly injured in Sunday’s bombing, returned Tuesday.