6 August 2013, 03:08

30 US embassies closed after interception of Al Qaeda leader's phone calls - source

Айман аз-Завахири аль-каида

Ayman al-Zawahiri

Ayman al-Zawahiri

The decision to close about 30 US diplomatic missions in several parts of the world was made after US security services have intercepted phone talks of al-Qaeda's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

This is what the Russian RIA Novosti news agency reports, referring to Associated Press, which, in its turn, refers to sources in the US intelligence services.

Intercepted communiques between al-Qaeda leadership and its affiliated branch in Yemen has led to credible evidence of plots against American and Western targets on the Arabian Peninsula, according to US officials.

According to the New York Times, the conversation between the two leaders was considered "highly unusual" and immediately led the State Department and the White House to act, prompting members of Congress to indicate last week that a credible terrorist plot was already underway.

The US authorities have closed about 30 US embassies in the Middle East and Africa. 19 of them will be closed till August 10.

Threat of terrorist acts against US concentrated on Arabian Peninsula - White House

Speaking at a briefing in Washington on Monday, the US President's press secretary Jay Carney said that although the main threat of terrorist acts is concentrated on the Arabian Peninsula, terrorist acts in other parts of the world are also not ruled out.

Mr. Carney does not rule out that terrorist acts may take place in the US itself, but does not reveal any details.

Earlier, the US State Department has warned all the US citizens in all parts of the world about the threat of terrorist acts, which is expected to last till the end of August.

This weekend, the US closed about 30 its embassies and consulates in several countries. On Monday, 10 of these embassies opened, but 19 others are still closed.

Jay Carney says that the threat of terrorist acts is very real, and the US is taking all kinds of precautions and will take more if necessary.


US embassies closure: 'one cannot keep security forces alert all the time' - expert

Roman Kosarev

The US embassies remain closed across most of the Middle East and North Africa, following warnings about potential terror plots. The State Department ordered more than 20 embassies and consulates regionwide to halt operations on Sunday in an unprecedented embassy shutdown since the 9/11 attacks on America. The closures may be extended up to a week, if the danger remains imminent. Yoram Schweitzer, a terrorism expert at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, talked with the Voice of Russia about what seems to be the most serious terrorist threat of the decade and the approaching anniversary of Benghazi attack.

Over the weekend, Britain, France and Germany have closed their embassies in Yemen for security reasons.

The US has shut down its diplomatic facilities in more than 10 Middle East countries. Among them are Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, Yemen, and Afghanistan. A state department official said the authorities “had been apprised of information” which led to these “precautionary steps”.

There are no details about time and location of a possible terrorist attack, but insiders say the Obama administration has been especially keen on monitoring the latest developments in Yemen. Earlier, President Barack Obama met with Yemeni President Abdo Rabu Mansour Hadi on Thursday. Yemen has been actively cracking down on Al-Qaeda lately, drawing the attention of radical Islamists more than before.

Analysts speculate the closures could be a preparation for the approaching one-year anniversary of the terror attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Last year four Americans were killed in the attack, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

The US Embassy in Cairo released a note on its website warning of possible marches or demonstrations in the coming days. Pakistan’s capital Islamabad has been put on high security alert after police foiled a massive terror plot targeting an international airport and an Air Force base. The US Department of State has issued a worldwide travel warning to US citizens, citing potential al-Qaeda attacks in August, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. It said that al-Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plot terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that potential attacks may occur in the period between now and the end of August and "may involve public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure."

The US has closed its embassies in a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa - in view of possible terrorist attacks. In your opinion, how real is this threat?

I suppose due to the steps taken by the Americans, there is probably some intelligence information, probably not concrete and very focused that threatens to carry out attacks against their installations, also against other sites because they also issued a travel warn. So, I suppose usually it is based on intelligence or on some kind of general estimation. It seems because of the nature of the scope of this alert that it is based on some specific information, probably in some areas it is a conclusion.

Of course, no one knows when or where terror attacks will take place. Could it be Yemen, a country that has been actively cracking down on al-Qaeda lately?

I usually hate to speculate, I don’t intend to do it now. I suppose there are several places where they can be attacked. It seems from the nature of the information that was delivered to the press, that Yemen is one of the places and the Americans are considering the al-Qaeda and the Hijaz to be one of the most if not the most dangerous organizations mainly because they attacked the Americans abroad, not only in Yemen or in Saudi Arabia. So, this is probably one of the places, and also they are basing the estimations on the escape of hundreds of prisoners from several places. So, I think this is all a mixture of concrete intelligence with the general intelligence, with some kind of ground evaluation.

We're approaching a sad anniversary - one year since the attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. What is being done to prevent similar attacks in the future?

Let me tell you something from my previous experience. The main issue is not only to issue a warning but also when to end it. Because to raise the alert you cannot keep the security forces alert all the time. So, the question will be when they can take it off. Of course the 9/11, which is going to take place in more than a month, is also a date to be warned. So, I think the American challenge is to take off this warning and hope not to suffer what may be even realistic approach by the terrorists who are planning those attacks to delay the attacks for seven days in order to bypass this state of alertness.

So, whether Libya is the place where they are going to try to attack again, or whether it is going to be Yemen, or in some other places that are not expected, this is something that they will have to deal with. We have to take also into consideration that the security forces within the American Embassies are anyhow on certain kind of alert or certain kind of readiness all the time because they are in risk all the time by al-Qaeda and the affiliates. So, the challenge is quite complicated and it is enduring one.

The US Department of State has issued a travel warning to U.S. citizens, citing potential Al Qaeda attacks in August. Do you think Americans take these warnings seriously?

I suppose some take it seriously and they should take it seriously although citizens can do nothing about defending themselves but to be vigilant. I think it is also a problem that some other countries are going to suffer the consequences of this enmity between al-Qaeda and the countries. So, it is not only the matter of Americans and not only a matter of Israelis. There are many enemies of al-Qaeda and affiliates among western countries and some other Arab countries.

Voice of Russia, RIA, RT

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