Terror threat shuts UK embassy in Yemen as US extends closures across Middle East
Officials said the closure of US diplomatic posts in 19 cities in the Muslim world was due to “an abundance of caution”, not a reactionary measure to new threats.
UK authorities have not specified the nature of the threat which led to the decision to close the embassy. However, British nationals have been warned there is a “high threat” from terrorism in the Middle Eastern country.
British nationals are also being warned against traveling to Yemen and those currently in the country have been advised to leave immediately, adding that evacuating them in an emergency would be difficult if the security situation deteriorates.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “Due to continuing security concerns the British embassy in Yemen will remain closed until the end of Eid.”
The exact date that the embassy will reopen has not been announced, although the festival is due to finish on Thursday.
“There is a high threat from terrorism throughout Yemen”, the Foreign Office said, adding that terrorists are continuing to threaten further attacks. "There is a very high threat of kidnap from armed tribes, criminals and terrorists.”
US diplomatic buildings will remain closed in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, among other countries, until Saturday, August 10. The State Department added closures of four African sites, in Madagascar, Burundi, Rwanda and Mauritius.
However, the US has also decided to reopen some posts today, including those in Kabul and Baghdad.
The warnings came following intelligence gathered by the US from intercepted communications between senior al-Qa'ida figures that seemed to have suggested a possible militant threat.
Interpol has warned countries around the world to be on their guard following a series of prison breaks believed to be linked to the al-Qa'ida terror network.
In a statement issued from its general secretariat HQ in Lyon, France, Interpol urged countries to show “increased vigilance”, following a series of prison escapes over the past month, which freed hundreds of terrorists in nine states including Iraq, Libya and Pakistan.
“With suspected al-Qa'ida involvement in several of the breakouts which led to the escape of hundreds of terrorists and other criminals, the Interpol alert requests the organisation's 190 member countries' assistance in order to determine whether any of these recent events are co-ordinated or linked,” the statement said.
“Interpol is asking its member countries to closely follow and swiftly process any information linked to these events and the escaped prisoners. They are also requested to alert the relevant member country and Interpol general secretariat headquarters if any escaped terrorist is located or intelligence developed which could help prevent another terrorist attack.”
Yemen has become a stronghold of al-Qa'ida over recent years, and is home to al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula, despite efforts by the country's authorities to suppress the group and US drones killing leaders including Anwar al-Awlaki. Yemen was the source of an attempt to bomb a US-bound airliner in 2009.
The US State Department on Tuesday ordered all non-essential staff out of Yemen and told US citizens to leave the country "immediately" over terrorism concerns.
The latest warning comes after the closure of some two dozen US missions across the Middle East and Africa and reports of intercepted messages from al-Qaeda's top leader ordering its Yemen franchise to carry out an attack.
The security measures come after an al-Qaeda threat prompted the closure of 19 US missions in the Middle East and North Africa. The closures has been extended till Saturday.
The US State Department said in a statement that the evacuations in Yemen were "due to the continued potential for terrorist attacks."
Germany, France and Britain also have also closed their embassies in the Yemeni capital Sana'a.
Four militants with suspected links to al-Qaeda were killed in a US drone strike in northern Yemen.
The drone targeted the militants' vehicle, the Mareb Press news website reported, and then flew over the capital Sana'a.
In mid-2012, the Yemeni army - backed by the United States - launched a military offensive against Islamist militants with suspected ties to al-Qaeda in the south and east of the Arabian Peninsula country.
Al-Qaeda's Yemen branch, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has repeatedly called for attacks on US diplomats and embassies.
The Washington-based monitoring group IntelCenter said al-Qaeda has talked about attacking embassies nine times since December 2009, three of those references have been in the past 11 months.
One of the clearest threats was made on September 15, 2012, shortly after the attack on the US consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, which killed the US ambassador.
The United States issued a global travel alert and closed 21 embassies and consulates across the Middle East, citing an al-Qaeda threat. According to the intercepted electronic communications in which the head of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, ordered to carry out an attack as early as this past Sunday, on August 4, according to American officials.
The US authorities do not know the exact target of the planned attack. “We do not know whether they mean an embassy, an airbase, an aircraft, trains,” the official said.
"Current information suggests that al-Qaida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August," a department statement said.
The US embassies and consulates will be closed to August 10, and the alert expires on August 31.
"Posts in Abu Dhabi, Amman, Cairo, Riyadh, Dhahran, Jeddah, Doha, Dubai, Kuwait, Manama, Muscat, Sanaa, Tripoli, Antananarivo, Bujumbura, Djibouti, Khartoum, Kigali, and Port Louis are instructed to close for normal operations Monday, August 5 through Saturday, August 10," according to the August 4
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.
Voice of Russia, RIA, RT, AFP, dpa, The Telegraph, The Independent