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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

US government warns citizens against travelling to Saudi Arabia

The warning comes after a Houthi-launched missile aimed at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's capital, was shot down two weeks ago. 

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at Al-Awja farm in the capital Riyadh on October 22, 2017. Alex Brandon / AFP PHOTO /
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at Al-Awja farm in the capital Riyadh on October 22, 2017. Alex Brandon / AFP PHOTO /

The US State Department cautioned citizens on Tuesday to "consider the risks" before travelling to Saudi Arabia due to militant threats and the potential for ballistic missile attacks on civilians by Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The warning comes two weeks after US-allied Saudi Arabia said it had shot down a ballistic missile fired by Iran-backed Houthis from Yemen towards the Saudi capital Riyadh. The missile, which the Houthis said was in response to Saudi-led air strikes on civilians in Yemen, was shot down near Riyadh airport without causing any casualties.

"Terrorist threats persist throughout Saudi Arabia, including in major cities such as Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dhahran, and attacks can occur without warning anywhere in the country," the State Department said in the warning, which was also posted on the US embassy's website.

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On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US secretary of state Rex Tillerson have discussed combating terrorism and improving regional security in a phone call.

"Terrorist groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its affiliates have targeted both Saudi and Western government interests, mosques and other religious sites (both Sunni and Shia), and places frequented by U.S. citizens and other Westerners," it added.

In October, two Saudi guards were shot dead and three others injured when a gunman drove up to the gate of the royal palace in the Red Sea city of Jeddah and opened fire.

Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of Arab states that intervened in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis marched on the interim headquarters of the internationally recognized government under the President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which caused him to go into exile since.

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