US Embassies Closed: Al Qaeda Terrorist Threat Prompts Middle East, North Africa Diplomats To Flee [REPORT]
U.S. embassies close this weekend following "elevated chatter" related to a possible Al Qaeda terrorist plot, the State Department announced Thursday. The embassies, all in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia will shutter their doors starting Sunday, Aug. 4.
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The State Department did not give any specifics about the terrorist threat, just that it may relate to an Al Qaeda plot against a specific target. "We just don't know which one," a senior U.S. official told ABC News.
"Security considerations have led us to take this precautionary step," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.
Eighteen overseas posts are affected by the U.S. embassies closed announcement. They include U.S. embassies in Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, where tens of thousands of U.S. troops are stationed. ABC News reports that the U.S. embassies closed Sunday also include those in Dhaka, Bangladesh; Amman, Jordan; Muscat, Oman; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Algiers, Algeria; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Sana'a, Yemen; and Tripoli, Libya,
Today, the State Department escalated the threat of a terrorist attack when they issued a worldwide travel alert for U.S. travelers through August 31. The announcement comes on the heels of news of the U.S. embassies closing in the Middle East.
The travel advisory reads, in part:
The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula. Current information suggests that al-Qa'ida 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.
"Actions like this are very unusual," Richard Falkenrath, a contributing editor to Bloomberg, said in an interview about the travel warning following the U.S. embassies closed announcement. "The closing of the embassies may have caused the plotters to change their target ... so they're going to go after American travelers."
When asked how seriously to take the terrorist threats, Falkenrath said "worldwide travel alerts are not at all common." He said the government doesn't like to announce blanket, worldwide travel warnings like this because "they're not really actionable."
Airlines are expected to beef up security at their airport checkpoints.
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