The United States has extended the closure of its embassies across the Middle East and Africa until the end of this week in an "abundance of caution" with mounting fears of terrorist attacks by al Qaeda.
The closures come after an international travel alert was issued in fear that al Qaeda will launch an attack in the Middle East or North Africa in the coming weeks, CNN reported. Several sources said the U.S. government has information that “members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are in the final stages of planning for an unspecified attack,” according to CNN.
The long list of closures will apply to 20 facilities in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. The closed U.S. embassies include:
U.S. Embassy Antananarivo, Madagascar
U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
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U.S. Embassy Amman, Jordan
U.S. Embassy Bujumbura, Burundi
U.S. Embassy Cairo, Egypt
U.S. Consulate Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
U.S. Embassy Djibouti, Djibouti
U.S. Embassy Dhaka, Bangladesh
U.S. Embassy Doha, Qatar
U.S. Consulate Dubai, United Arab Emirates
U.S. Consulate Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
U.S. Embassy Khartoum, Sudan
U.S. Embassy Kigali, Rwanda
U.S. Embassy Kuwait City, Kuwait
U.S. Embassy Manama, Bahrain
U.S. Embassy Muscat, Oman
U.S. Embassy Port Louis, Mauritius
U.S. Embassy Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
U.S. Embassy Sana’a, Yemen
U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Libya
Many of these embassies were also closed on Sunday when the Department of State released a press release stating the closures were due to an "abundance of caution" and not an "indication of a new threat."
“Out of an abundance of caution, we’ve decided to extend the closure of several embassies and consulates including a small number of additional posts,’ U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “This is not an indication of a new threat stream, merely an indication of our commitment to exercise caution and take appropriate steps to protect our employees, including local employees and visitors to our facilities.” Psaki added that a number of these facilities were scheduled to be closed in accordance with the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Last week, the U.S. shut down some of its embassies and consulates as a precautionary measure to maintain security. “The Department of State has instructed certain U.S. embassies and consulates to remain closed or to suspend operations on Sunday, Aug. 4,” Marie Harf, a spokesperson at the State Department said in a press briefing on Thursday. Harf also said the embassies could remain closed for days. “Depending on our analysis, individual U.S. embassies and consulates will announce whether or not they are open and whether they are implementing restrictions or other measures,” she said.
The Department of State also issued a travel alert Friday for a potential terrorist attack that could occur up until the end of August. The alert, which will expire on Aug. 31, reminds U.S. travelers to take precautions when using public transportation systems, as terrorists are likely to target public transit.
These precautions come a year after an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012, where Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, his State Department colleague Sean Smith, and former Navy Seals Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed. The Department of State has issued a security warning for the attack, which was later found to be a terrorist attack, to other U.S. embassies in Muslim-majority nations ahead of the 9/11 anniversary.
Controversy surrounds the attack for the Obama administration, with many still left wondering what happened in Benghazi and what the U.S. is doing to find the terrorists from a year ago.
CNN reported that an official for the State Department said the recent information that led to the latest closure of the consulates and embassies “may not have warranted such a response” before the attack on Benghazi last year.