U.S. Embassies to Remain Closed After Terror Threat

The U.S. Embassy and Consulate closures that started as an exceptional closure of diplomatic posts has broaded rapidly over the weekend as it seems that the U.S. and her allies prepare for the threat of a possible attack. 3 factors have led to the worsening situation in the area: concerns over major prison break outs, the intercept of messages from senior al Qaeda operatives and the end of Ramadan. 

The U.S. State Department has announced that 19 embassies, including Sanaa, Yemen, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tripoli, Libya and Cairo, Egypt, throughout Africa and the Middle East are to remain closed out of “caution”; this included embassies which had not previously been closed. Embassies were originally only closed on Saturday but this round of closures is to last until this coming Saturday.

A press release on the State Department’s website stated that the extension of the closures is out of an “abundance of caution” and should not be taken as an indication of “a new threat”. However, the statement does not address why 4 extra embassies in Antananarivo, Madagascar, Bujumbura, Burundi, Kigali, Rwanda and Port Louis, Mauritius were closed as of yesterday for the remainder of the week.

Collegiettes, take note, there is also a global travel warning which lasts until August 31st warning that al Qaeda operatives may plan attacks in this area. Officials are particularly worried about Yemen and the surrounding area and this area is on high alert for attacks in the coming days.

The reason for the closures is that messages from senior al Qaeda operatives have been intercepted, although what the messages said is so far unclear. CNN has agreed to a request from on Obama administration official not to release any more details due to the sensitivity of the issue at hand.  

Seth Jones, associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corp suggests that it is easier for al Qaeda operatives to attack embassies in areas where they already have a growing presence or allies, such as Iraq, East Africa and Pakistan, than to attempt an attack on the U.S. homeland.

Not only are there warnings for terrorist activities in this area, but there have been prison breaks which are generally considered to be related to the raised terror alert. On Saturday, international police agency, Interpol, issued a global security alert advising caution after a series of prison breaks in Pakistan, Iraq and Libya. These are all thought to have had al Qaeda involvement.

On Sunday, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said that the closures were the result of the "most serious threat" he'd seen in recent years. Chambliss told NBC's Meet the Press that the intelligence was "very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11."

Top national security experts met on Saturday to discuss the issue. Those present included the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency directors, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, suggesting that the threat is one which is extremely serious.

The U.S. is not the only country to close their embassies in the region; the UK, France and Germany have all closed their embassies in Yemen in reaction to the suspected terror threat.