US closes embassies, issues global travel alert over Al Qaeda threat
The State Department ordered a precautionary closing on Sunday of 21 US embassies and consulates, mainly in the Middle East, without citing a specific threat. But its global travel alert says Al Qaeda may attack 'between now and the end of August.'
What's in the “chatter” of global Internet traffic and telecommunications that prompted the precautionary closing this Sunday of US embassies and consulates in a number of Middle Eastern and Muslim countries?Skip to next paragraph
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The State Department isn’t saying anything about specific threats. But a global travel alert the State Department issued Friday makes the origin of the threat clear: “Current information suggests that Al Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond,” the alert states. Al Qaeda and its affiliates “may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August,” it adds.
Sources with access to intelligence, including certain members of Congress, say the threat was picked up in more than the usual amount of communications, or “chatter,” about possible attacks against US interests overseas.
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And, especially, with the anniversary of the deadly firebombing of an unprepared US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, approaching, it’s clear the potential danger is enough to prompt extraordinary measures.
The State Department on Friday issued a list of 21 embassies and consulates, mostly in the Middle East, that are instructed to close Sunday. On Thursday, deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said the order affects “all US embassies and consulates that would have normally been open on Sunday.” The weekend in Muslim countries is typically Friday and Saturday, with Sunday beginning the work week.
Among the countries where US diplomatic missions will close are Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Facilities in some countries may remain closed past Sunday, Ms. Harf said.
Friday’s travel alert does not single out any particular countries where Americans should avoid travel, but it does refer to a “continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula.”