Security was tight at US missions around the Arab world yesterday as Washington held urgent talks on an al-Qaeda threat that prompted it to close 22 embassies and consulates.
Measures were particularly strict in the Yemeni capital where Britain, France and Germany all closed their embassies too following the US warning that lawmakers in Washington said involved al-Qaeda’s Yemen and Saudi Arabia branch.
However, the US alert spread across most Arab capitals and extended beyond the Arab world to Afghanistan and Bangladesh, and saw embassies closed yesterday, the first day of the working week in many Islamic countries.
In Sana’a, special forces with armored personnel carriers were stationed outside the US embassy and the missions of Britain, France and Germany a correspondent reported. Police and army checkpoints were set up on all the Yemeni capital’s main throughfares.
Residents said they heard the sound of a drone flying over, which could only be American as Washington is the sole power to operate the unmanned aircraft in the region. In Jordan, authorities beefed up security around the closed US mission.
“Authorities have conducted a sweep for explosives at all US diplomatic locations and beefed up security measures around the US embassy,” a Jordanian security official said.
US National Security Adviser Susan Rice chaired White House talks to review Washington’s response to the threat it revealed on Friday of a major attack by al-Qaeda this month.
Also attending were US Secretary of State John Kerry, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano as well as the heads of the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency, the White House said.
US President Barack Obama did not attend, but was briefed afterwards.
“Early this week, the president instructed his national security team to take all appropriate steps to protect the American people in light of a potential threat occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula,” a White House statement said.
On Friday, Washington issued a worldwide travel warning, citing unspecified plans by al-Qaeda to strike US interests in the Middle East or North Africa this month.
The White House meeting was held as Interpol issued a global security alert after hundreds of militants were set free in jailbreaks linked to al-Qaeda.