WASHINGTON, District of Columbia: The United States (US) issued a worldwide warning Friday that Al-Qaeda may attack in August as it ordered shut its embassies across the Islamic world.
Britain also said it would temporarily close its embassy in Yemen as US lawmakers said the threat likely involved Al-Qaeda’s franchise in the country.
Germany also announced that it will close its embassy in Yemen on Sunday and Monday for security reasons.
The State Department said attacks were possible “particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula.”
President Barack Obama had ordered his national security team to “take all appropriate steps to protect the American people,” a White House official said.
“Current information suggests that Al-Qaeda 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,” the State Department said in a worldwide travel alert for US citizens.
The alert warned of “the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure.”
“It is much more specific than any of the threat lines that I’ve seen in the past 10 years,” said Rep. Peter King, a Republican who serves on the House intelligence committee.
As a precaution, the State Department said it was closing at least 22 US embassies or consulates on Sunday, a work day in many Islamic countries.
The missions cover virtually all of the Arab world and also include two embassies in predominantly Muslim non-Arab nations—Afghanistan and Bangladesh—as well as US-run facilities in Israel.
US State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf said that some embassies or consulates may decide to remain closed after Sunday.
Britain is closing its embassy in Yemen on Sunday and Monday and has withdrawn staff, the Foreign Office said.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the special alert was issued due to information that was “specific, credible and non-counterable.”
Under a policy since the 1988 Pan Am flight bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, the US is obliged to share with its private citizens any safety information provided to US government employees.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican who has criticized the Obama administration over the Benghazi attack, said he understood there was “a very real worldwide threat.”
“There are threats that are coming at us on a daily basis but this rises to a new level,” Chaffetz told CNN.
He praised the administration response to the latest threat but called for more counter-terrorism programs.
It was unclear if the purported threat was in response to specific events or anniversaries.
Wednesday marks the 15th anniversary of Al-Qaeda’s coordinated attacks against the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.