US, EU states shut down embassies on terror alert
A checkpoint leading to the US embassy is seen in the Yemeni capital Saana. The US and many western countries shut down their embassies in the city. AFP photo
The United States, Germany, Britain and France closed their embassies in Yemen Aug.4 after the U.S. issued on Aug. 2 a worldwide travel alert and warned Americans that al Qaeda may be planning attacks in August, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. The move came a day after U.S. President Barack Obama’s top national security advisers met at the White House to discuss the potential threat of terrorist attacks.
Germany and Britain announced that their embassies in Yemen would be also closed Aug.5, while France said its mission there would stay shut for “several days.” Canada said its Dhaka mission was shutting as a security precaution and it would “continue to monitor events closely and take appropriate security measures.”
Yemen also boosted security around Western embassies Aug.4. Special forces with armoured personnel carriers were stationed outside the U.S. embassy in Sanaa and the missions of Britain, France and Germany, and Agence France-Presse correspondent reported. Police and army checkpoints were set up on all main streets around the Yemeni capital, especially those leading to Western embassies.
The Washington meeting was held as Interpol issued a global security alert after hundreds of militants were set free in jailbreaks linked to the Al-Qaeda terror network, and as suicide bombers killed nine near the Indian consulate in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad.
Without giving an update on the nature of the threat, the White House said top officials including Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and national security adviser Susan Rice gathered on Aug. 3 to discuss it.
“Early this week, the president instructed his National Security team to take all appropriate steps to protect the American people in light of a potential threat occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula,” the White House said in a statement.
“This afternoon, National Security Advisor Rice chaired a meeting with the Principals Committee to further review the situation and follow-up actions,” it said, referring to the group of advisers.
A senior U.S. official, asked if the United States had pre-positioned forces to deal with the latest threat, replied, “We’ve had U.S. forces prepared for some time to respond to potential contingencies in the Middle East and North Africa.
“We’re postured to support timely and effective action if requested. This latest threat is serious, and the Pentagon is working closely with its partners, to include the State Department and the intelligence community, to confront it,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
Obama spent the weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat after playing golf earlier on Aug. 3. Yesterday was his birthday. The White House said Obama had received
regular briefings about the potential threat and U.S. preparedness measures all week. Rice and counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco briefed him after the high-level meeting on Saturday, it said.
Other attendees at the White House meeting included Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and the heads of the FBI and CIA.
Compiled from Reuters and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.