Terror threat prompts weekend US embassy closings

State Department officials said Thursday they were acting out of an "abundance of caution."

WASHINGTON - (AP) -- The threat of a terrorist attack led to the weekend closure of 21 U.S. embassies and consulates in the Muslim world and a global travel warning to Americans, the first such alert since an announcement before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 strikes.

"There is a significant threat stream and we're reacting to it," Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told ABC News, according to interview excerpts released Friday. He said the threat was "more specific" than previous ones and the "intent is to attack Western, not just U.S. interests."

The warning comes less than a year since last year's deadly Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, and with the Obama administration and Congress determined to prevent any similar breach of an American embassy or consulate.

The State Department's warning urged U.S. travelers to take extra precautions overseas. It cited potential dangers involved with public transportation systems and other prime sites for tourists, and noted that previous attacks have centered on subway and rail networks as well as airplanes and boats.

Travelers were advised to sign up for State Department alerts and register with U.S. consulates in the countries they visit.

The statement said that al-Qaida or its allies might target either U.S. government or private American interests. The alert expires on Aug. 31.

The State Department said the potential for terrorism was particularly acute in the Middle East and North Africa, with a possible attack occurring on or coming from the Arabian Peninsula. The diplomatic facilities affected stretch from Mauritania in northwest Africa to Afghanistan.

U.S. officials pointed specifically to Yemen, the home of al-Qaida's most dangerous affiliate and the network blamed for several notable plots against the United States, from the foiled Christmas Day 2009 effort to bomb an airliner over Detroit to the explosives-laden parcels intercepted the following year aboard cargo flights.

"Current information suggests that al-Qaida 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," a department statement said.

Yemen's president, Abdo Rabby Mansour Hadi, met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on Thursday, where both leaders cited strong counterterrorism cooperation. This past week, Yemen's military reported a U.S. drone strike killed six alleged al-Qaida militants in the group's southern strongholds.

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, said the embassy threat was linked to al-Qaida and concerned the Middle East and Central Asia.

"In this instance, we can take a step to better protect our personnel and, out of an abundance of caution, we should," Royce said. He declined to say if the National Security Agency's much-debated surveillance program helped reveal the threat.

advertisement | advertise on News 12

Top 5 Must See

Police say Ednilson David Cruz Alvarado tried to 1 West Hempstead man accused of sexually assaulting woman in his home
A pilot from Wheatley Heights is recovering after 2 LI pilot recovers after plane crash in NJ
Suffolk police say officers responded to the Melville 3 Resident concerned over excessive noise at Melville Mall
Monday marks the 9-year anniversary of the crash 4 9 years after fatal crash, mother's push for change continues
On Friday, flames broke out at the home 5 Man picking up the pieces after fire at family's beloved home

advertisement | advertise on News 12

Features

Each week, News 12's Doug Geed explores the Check out fun things to do on the East End!

Explore the Twin Forks with News 12's Doug Geed.

Each week a different shelter visits News 12 Dog Day Fridays Series

Each week a different shelter visits News 12 Long Island with pets up for adoption.

News 12 digs deep to find Long Island's Discover Long Island's Hidden Past

News 12's Danielle Campbell digs into Long Island's roots.

News 12's Lily Stolzberg sees how much Long On The Spot

News 12's Lily Stolzberg sees how much Long Islanders know about everything and anything.

Sorry to interrupt...

Your first 5 are free

Access to News12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service Electric℠ video customers.

Please enjoy 5 complimentary views to articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.

LOGIN SUBSCRIBE