SANAA, Yemen — Gunmen opened fire on a tourist convoy Friday afternoon in the eastern Hadramawt region, killing two Belgian women and two Yemeni drivers, Yemeni officials said.
The attack was the first aimed at foreigners in Yemen since last summer, when a suicide car bomber attacked a group of tourists visiting a temple in central Yemen, killing eight Spaniards and two Yemenis.
The Yemeni state news agency identified the Belgian women as Klaudi Klawy and Catharine Glory. One of the drivers was identified as Ahmed al Amiri. Their bodies were being flown back to the capital Friday night.
The attack took place in the Wadi Dawan district, about 180 miles east of Sanaa. Four gunmen waiting in a pickup truck near a speed bump along a rural road ambushed a four-car tourist convoy, said a tourist official who asked not to be identified. Two Belgians and one Yemeni were also wounded.
The attackers then fled, said Yemen’s tourist minister, Nabeel al Faqih.
The area where the attacks occurred, near a famous group of ancient multistory mud dwellings in the town of Shibam, is not considered especially dangerous. There have been kidnappings in the area, but they have subsided in recent years after a government crackdown.
Al Qaeda in Yemen has claimed a number of recent attacks, including the killing of the Spanish tourists in Marib. In recent days Internet statements purporting to be from al Qaeda in Yemen have issued threats.
The Yemeni government’s statements on Friday hinted that al Qaeda might be responsible for the latest attack. But one government official said it was not yet clear who was to blame, and added that it was possible the attack was related to recent unrest in the south, where demonstrations by former military officers have spread into a broader antigovernment movement and triggered periodic violence. Last Sunday, police fired on demonstrators in the southern city of Aden, killing two.
The Yemeni government has also been fighting a sporadic war against rebels in the northwestern Saada province, where violence has erupted again over the past week after months of relative quiet.