Fears of an al-Qaeda terror strike prompted the US to issue a worldwide travel alert and order its embassies across the Islamic world temporarily closed.
Germany and Britain meanwhile announced that their embassies in Yemen would be closed today and tomorrow for security reasons.
The US State Department warning, issued on Friday, warned of unspecified plans by the al-Qaeda network to launch an attack against US interests in the Middle East or North Africa this month.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey told ABC News that the threats were directed at Western interests, and were “more specific” than previous threats.
While an exact target was unknown, “the intent seems clear. The intent is to attack Western, not just US, interests,” Dempsey said in an interview for the program This Week.
As a precaution, the State Department said it was closing at least 22 US embassies or consulates today, a work day in many Islamic countries.
Both Germany and Britain later announced that their embassies in Yemen would be closed today and tomorrow.
The German Foreign Ministry referred to the risk of “terrorist attacks in certain isolated parts of the country, but also in the capital Sana’a,” while Britain’s Foreign Office said the embassy was closing due to increased security concerns in the final days of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan — which ends in a few days — and the upcoming Eid holiday.
US President Barack Obama 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 the worldwide travel alert for US citizens.
The attacks were possible “particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula.”