Western embassies remain closed in Yemen; 19 U.S. posts shuttered amid threat

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Western embassies in Yemen and 19 U.S. diplomatic posts across the Arab world and Africa remained closed Monday following reports that al Qaeda might strike Western targets around the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan this week.

Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands joined the United States in closing their embassies in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, over the weekend after U.S. intelligence intercepted communications among senior al Qaeda leaders about a plot to attack Western interests.


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British officials told the BBC that their embassy “will remain closed until the end of Eid,” the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.

“No exact date for [the embassy’s] reopening has been given, but Eid ends on Thursday,” the BBC reported.

The British Foreign Office is advising on its website against all travel to Yemen and is strongly urging hundreds of its nationals working there to leave.

French officials, without providing any details, said their embassy in Sanaa would be closed for several days.

“We have been directly and indirectly informed of threats concerning our overseas establishments and expatriates, threats from al Qaeda,” French President Francois Hollande said, according to Radio France International. “Therefore, the embassy will be closed for several days.”

Other news agencies reported that German and Dutch embassies in Sanna also would be closed.


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The closures were prompted by intercepted communications among senior al Qaeda operatives, the end of Ramadan, and concerns about several major prison breaks in the region, according to CNN.

The State Department last week announced 22 embassies and consulates would be closed Sunday — a workday in the Islamic world when they normally would have been open for business.

Sunday afternoon, a department spokeswoman said embassy closures at 15 locations would be extended through Saturday, Aug. 10; and that four other posts — all in Africa — would be shuttered all week out of “an abundance of caution.”

The State Department list of extended closings issued Sunday includes embassies and consulates in Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, Libya, Djibouti and Sudan. In addition, embassies will be closed in Madagascar, Burundi, Rwanda and Mauritius — not on the original list Friday.

Embassies and consulates in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Iraq and Mauritania, which were closed at the weekend, reopened on Monday.

“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.

Interpol said in a weekend alert that it suspected al Qaeda involvement in a series of recent jailbreaks in nine countries, including Iraq, Libya and Pakistan. It said the jailbreaks allowed the escape of hundreds of “terrorists and other criminals” in the past month.

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About the Author
Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...

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