US Embassy Closure Extended Amid Al Qaeda Threat

US Embassy in Tripoli, Libya
US Embassy in Tripoli, Libya

United States has extended closure of its embassies across the Middle East and Africa as officials said on Sunday, missions will be closed through August 10, amid intelligence reports an Al Qaida attack may be imminent.

The State Department, noting it was acting “out of an abundance of caution,” said 19 diplomatic outposts would be shuttered through Saturday.

The list includes 15 that were already ordered closed on Sunday due to the security fears, as well as four additional posts.

“This is not an indication of a new threat stream, merely an indication of our commitment to exercise caution and take appropriate steps to protect our employees, including local employees and visitors to our facilities,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

At least 25 US embassies and consular offices had initially been ordered closed on Sunday in response to a terror threat, a move lawmakers said was prompted by intercepts of high-ranking Al Qaida operatives signalling a major attack.

Briefed members of Congress called the intelligence reporting among the most serious they’ve seen in recent years.

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Michael McCaul called it “probably one of the most specific and credible threats I’ve seen, perhaps, since 9/11.”

He said an attack appeared to be “imminent,” possibly timed to coincide with the last night of Ramadan.

Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC’s ‘This Week’ that Al Qaida’s “operatives are in place.”

He said the United States knows this “because we’ve received information that high level people from Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula are talking about a major attack.”

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told ABC News the threats were “more specific” than previous threats. While an exact target was unknown, “the intent seems clear. The intent is to attack Western, not just US, interests,” Dempsey said.

The diplomatic posts to be closed through Saturday included those in Abu Dhabi, Amman, Cairo, Riyadh, Dhahran, Jeddah, Doha, Dubai, Kuwait, Manama, Muscat, Sana’a, Tripoli, Antananarivo, Bujumbura, Djibouti, Khartoum, Kigali, and Port Louis.

The new closures are located in Madagascar, Burundi, Rwanda and Mauritius. The outposts that are reopening include those in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Mauritania, Iraq, and Israel.