Following the lead of the US, several more countries have decided to shut down their embassies in Yemen because of increased terrorist chatter indicating a threat of attack by Al-Qaeda.
France, Germany, and the UK have all stated they will close their embassies in Yemen on August 4, and 5. The announcements have come after the US State Department issued a list of embassies it will close in several Muslim countries on Sunday, the start of the workweek in those nations, as well as the Night of Power, a date of special significance during the month of Ramadan.
The British Foreign Office has advised against travel to Yemen, and for UK citizens to leave if already there as “If you don’t leave the country now while commercial carriers are still flying it is extremely unlikely that the British Government will be able to evacuate you or provide consular assistance.”
Representative Peter King, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence said of the threat “We’re not certain exactly where something might happen but it’s very specific as to when and it’s also very specific as to the fact that it is going to happen, so we have to be on alert everywhere.” He also recommended, as has the US State Department, that American travellers abroad inform their local embassy of their travel plans. The State Department website has a program called STEP at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/registration/registration_4789.html that allows this to be done online.
According to CNN, three different anonymous sources have confirmed that the main area of concern in terms of the threat that has prompted the closures is Yemen. The New York Times has also reported with undisclosed US intelligence officials as sources that the embassy closures and the worldwide travel alert issued by the State Department were driven by intelligence obtained from intercepted messages between high ranking members of the branch of Al-Qaeda based in Yemen.
For its part, the Yemeni government has beefed up security throughout the country. Tanks and armored vehicles have also been deployed near the presidential palace in the wake of a failed military coup on Friday.
This would not be the first time Al-Qaeda has targeted the US embassy in Yemen. In 2009 there was a plan to attack the embassy with suicide bombers. However, the plot was foiled throught the targeted killing of several of the high ranking terrorists involved.
Earlier today the Indian consulate in Jalalabad, Afghanistan was attacked with car bombs, causing casualties of at least nine dead and 20 wounded. The Taliban has denied responsibility in the suicide bombing.
There have also been many protests at the US embassy in Cairo, Egypt, due to the unstable political situation in that country, including two regime changes, in the wake of the Arab Spring, and it is expected these will continue to occur. Some of these demonstrations have turned violent.
The latest threat from Al-Qaeda, which prompted the closures, comes as September 11 nears. The date marks the anniversaries of the attacks on the World trade Center and the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya.