The US State Department has issued a worldwide travel alert because of what a US official anonymously described as a “credible and serious” threat from the terrorist group Al-Qaeda, according to CNN. Plans to close down several embassies had already been announced. The closure involves 21 embassies in several Muslim countries starting on Sunday, the beginning of the workweek for the offices in question.
The complete list of embassy closures can be viewed at the State Department’s website located below, where emergency contact numbers for each embassy can be found. The closures could be extended, if deemed necessary. The embassy in Israel has not been added to the list, as it is normally closed on Sundays.
The travel alert can be found below where links for enrollment in State Department programs for travellers can be found.
The alert stated that “Current information suggests that al Qaeda 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.” In addition, it warned that the attacks could “target both official and private interests.”
Rep. Ed Royce, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said of the security concern “it’s my understanding that it is al Qaeda-linked, all right, and the threat emanates in the Middle East and in Central Asia.” This seems to be confirmed by the State Department’s alert, Which also names Al Qaeda, and by the regions in which the specific embassies are being closed.
According to CNN, US officials who chose not to be publicly identified have said that a particular area of concern is Yemen.
The increased terrorist chatter is thought to be related to the end of Ramadan next week, with Sunday being Lylet al-Qadr, a specially significant night within the holy month of fasting. In addition, September 11 is approaching, which marks the anniversary of both the attack on the World Trade Center and the terrorist raid on the US embassy in Benghazi, Lybia, which resulted in the deaths of four people, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
There have also been protests, of wich more are expected to occur over the weekend, at the embassy in Cairo, Egypt, due to the political upheavals in that country in the wake of the Arab Sping. Some of those demonstrations have turned violent.
Vice President Joe Biden and State Department officials met with members of Congress earlier this week to discuss measures taken to secure the embassies since the Benghazi attack, as well as to brief them on the latest threat. The Benghazi incident has caused outrage among several members of Congress towards the FBI, as the law enforcement agency has not questioned Ahmed Abu Khattala, described as “a person of interest” in the case, while rumors swirl that he masterminded the assault, and several news organizations have been able to interview him on the subject. Khattala has denied responsibility for the attack.
The travel alert from the State Department, and the announcement to close the embassies follows several recent prison breaks in Iraq, Pakistan, and Lybia by both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban during which hundreds of captured militants have escaped.
By Milton Ruiz
State Department for travellers