MADRID -- Five bandaged survivors of a suicide bombing at a Yemeni temple returned home yesterday -- one carried on a stretcher -- along with the bodies of seven fellow tourists who died in the attack.
Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos greeted the tourists as they disembarked a Spanish Armed Forces plane just after dawn yesterday. Relatives hugged their loved ones, grim looks on their faces, while a motorcade of hearses removed the coffins from the air base.
Crown Prince Felipe and his wife, Princess Letizia, accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, later visited grieving relatives of those killed at a hotel in Madrid.
A sixth wounded Spaniard, Maria Asuncion Vitorica, remained in a Yemeni hospital to undergo a second operation and was reported to be in serious condition, Spanish authorities said.
The attack occurred Monday when a suspected Al Qaeda suicide bomber plowed his car into a group of tourists visiting a temple linked to the ancient Queen of Sheba, killing seven Spaniards and two Yemenis in a part of Yemen known for its lawlessness.
The attack occurred less than two weeks after the US Embassy warned Americans to avoid the area, which until recent years was rarely visited because of frequent kidnappings of foreigners.
Yemen remained on high alert yesterday as security forces deployed to the capital to protect embassies, government buildings, and top state officials. Nine Islamists have been arrested so far in a government sweep following the bombing, but they are not considered suspects, police said.
Yemeni security officials said yesterday that they had been warned about a possible Al Qaeda attack, but they did not think it would be a suicide bombing. They said Al Qaeda had warned it would target Yemeni oil facilities, government institutions, and foreign embassies.
The Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, offered a $76,000 reward for any information about those responsible for the attack.
Spain's foreign minister said Yemen believed the attack was directed against the country's tourism sector and not against Spain specifically.
A second contingent of Spanish police specialists would be flying out to Yemen in the next few days to help Yemeni officers with the investigation. Another plane was expected to fly to Yemen yesterday with a Spanish surgeon and relatives of the tourist who remains hospitalized in Yemen.
The 13 Spaniards had gone to Yemen on June 30 to spend several weeks as part of package tour organized by a Basque travel agency.
In April, the Spanish Foreign Ministry advised travelers that there was a risk of terrorist activity in Yemen and emphasized that the region of Marib, where the bombing occurred, should only be visited in the company of a local guide and a military escort.