Tue, Jan 05, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Diplomatic missions in Yemen closed amid fears of attack

Reuters and AFP, SANAA and Tokyo

The US and Britain kept their embassies in Yemen closed for a second day yesterday over concerns about possible militant attacks after the failed Christmas Day bombing of a US-bound airliner, diplomats said.

The US embassy has cited threats by al-Qaeda, which US intelligence agencies believe has a growing presence in Yemen. An aide to US President Barack Obama has said the US had indications al-Qaeda was planning an attack in Sanaa.

“The embassy is still closed again today ... We are continuing to make the security review,” a US diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Britain has cited security reasons for its embassy’s closure without elaborating.

Yemen, facing a Shiite Muslim rebellion in the north and separatist protests in the south, has tightened security on its coast to stop Islamist militants infiltrating from Somalia.

Authorities had put al-Qaeda militants in two coastal provinces under round-the-clock surveillance, the state news agency said on Sunday, after Somali militants said last week they were ready to send reinforcements to al-Qaeda in Yemen.

Western allies have sought to bolster Yemen’s government for fear that al-Qaeda might exploit the country’s instability to launch more attacks across the globe.

The Nigerian man charged with trying to bomb a Detroit-bound passenger plane on Christmas Day is believed to have received training from al-Qaeda in Yemen.

Al-Qaeda said the bombing attempt was retaliation for US involvement in Yemen and its military support for the state, which has launched an offensive against the militants.

Spain’s embassy in Yemen had restricted access but remained open on Sunday, the Spanish government said. The El Mundo newspaper said the embassy would be closed to the public yesterday.

Japan also suspended consular services at its embassy yesterday.

“We have shut the consular service section at the Japanese embassy, where Yemeni people come to apply for visas,” said Yukiya Hamamoto, an official at the foreign ministry’s Middle East section.

“I understand that otherwise the embassy is conducting business as usual inside,” he said.

Security has been ratcheted up around the airport and foreign embassies in Sanaa, Yemeni officials said yesterday.

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