Terror Threat Extends U.S. Embassy Closures to Aug. 10

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At least 19 U.S. embassies and consulates in predominantly Muslim countries will remain closed through the week as the State Department stays on guard for potential terrorist attacks.

Yesterday’s initial one-day closure of 22 U.S. outposts followed the State Department’s issuance of a worldwide travel alert warning of planned attacks in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia by al-Qaeda or its affiliates. The decision to extend the selective shutdown through Aug. 10 “is not an indication of a new threat stream,” Jen Psaki, a department spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we’ve decided to extend the closure of several embassies and consulates including a small number of additional posts,” she said. This is “merely an indication of our commitment to exercise caution.”

President Barack Obama instructed his national security team last week to “take all appropriate steps to protect the American people in light of a potential threat occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula,” according to a White House press release. The terrorist threat that prompted the closure is “very credible” and “specific as to how enormous it was going to be,” lawmakers from both parties said.

“High-level people from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are talking about a major attack,” U.S. Representative C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee, said on ABC’s “This Week” program that aired yesterday. “The good news is that we’ve picked up intelligence.”

Specific Threat

The information includes communications among known terrorists intercepted by the National Security Agency in recent days, according to two U.S. officials who asked not to be identified discussing classified intelligence matters. They declined to offer specifics about the exchanges, only saying the content is credible and disturbing.

“This threat was so specific as to how enormous it was going to be and also certain dates were given,” Representative Peter King, a New York Republican who serves on both the House Intelligence and Homeland Security committees, said on “This Week.” While an attempted attack is most likely to happen in the Middle East, “It could be in Europe, it could be in the United States.”

The primary focus is on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a terrorist group based in Yemen and a remote part ofSaudi Arabia, according to King and the two U.S. officials.

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