Washington, Aug 5 (PTI): The US has extended closure of 19 diplomatic missions in the Middle East and north Africa till August 10 as a precaution after it intercepted al-Qaeda’s most serious threat in recent years to target its embassies.
The United States initially closed 22 diplomatic posts for the day yesterday. The State Department last week issued a worldwide travel alert warning Americans that al-Qaeda may be planning attacks in August, particularly in the Middle East.
A State Department official asserted that this was not an indication of a new threat stream, but merely an indication of US commitment to exercise caution and take appropriate steps to protect its employees and visitors to its facilities.
“Given that a number of our embassies and consulates were going to be closed in accordance with local custom and practice for the bulk of the week for Eid celebration at the end of Ramadan, and out of an abundance of caution, we’ve decided to extend closure of several embassies and consulates, including a small number of additional posts,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said.
However, a top military commander said that the US has intercepted al-Qaeda plot to target not only Americans, but also citizens from Western countries.
“There is a significant threat stream, and we’re reacting to it,” General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the ABC news. “That part of it is unspecified. But the intent seems clear. The intent is to attack Western – not just the US – interests.”
Congressman Charles Albert Ruppersberger said the terror threat is credible and is based on intelligence reports.
“We can only say the intelligence that we get. And, by the way, intelligence is the best defence against terrorism.
Those operatives are in place because we’ve received information that high-level people from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are talking about a major attack. And these are people at a high-level,” said Ruppersberger, who is ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.
“Now, whatever that intelligence is, we act upon it because our first priority, again, is to protect the Americans in other parts of the world,” he added.
“We know that al-Qaeda and other people out there want to attack us and kill us and our allies. The good news is that we’ve picked up intelligence. And that’s what we do. That’s what NSA does,” said Ruppersberger.