The US has stepped up security at all its major airports and railway stations after issuing a global travel alert and ordering temporary closure of its 22 diplomatic missions in the wake of a “very specific” al-Qaeda terror threat emanating from the Arabian Peninsula.
President Barack Obama himself is keeping a close tab on the developments related to the threat.
National Security Advisor Susan Rice held a meeting of top US national security officers to review the potential terror threat coming from the Arabian Peninsula.
“The president has received frequent briefings over the last week on all aspects of the potential threat and the preparatory measures being taken,” according to a White House statement.
The President, early this week, had instructed his national security team to take all appropriate steps to protect the American people in light of the threats, the statement said.
“Given the nature of the potential threat, throughout the week, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism Lisa Monaco has held regular meetings with relevant members of the inter-agency to ensure the US Government is taking those appropriate steps,” the White House said.
Rice on Saturday chaired a meeting with the Principals Committee to review the situation and follow-up actions. On Friday, the State Department issued a worldwide travel alert and closed down 22 embassies and consulates on Sunday in view of the al-Qaeda threat.
Congressman Peter King, chairman of the Sub-committee on Counter-terrorism and Intelligence, said the threat was very specific, but he did not divulge any details.
In view of the terrorist threat, the Department of Homeland Security had on Saturday increased security measures at airports, train stations and other transportation hubs. It expanded scrutiny of visitors coming into the US.
According to an official from the Department of Homeland Security, such measures are being taken out of an abundance of caution.
“Current information suggests that al-Qaeda and affiliated organisations 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.
“The Department of State alerts US citizens to the continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula,” the statement said about the worldwide travel alert which expires on August 31.
According to the travel alert, terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons and target both official and private interests. US citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure, the alert said.
“The Department of State has instructed certain US embassies and consulates to remain closed or to suspend operations on Sunday, August 4,” State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said.
“The Department has been apprised of information that, out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installations that indicates we should institute these precautionary steps,” she said.
The US Embassies and Consulates which have announced that they would be closed on Sunday are those situated in Abu Dhabi, Algeria, Amman in Jordan, Baghdad, Cairo, Tehran, Djibouti, Dhaka, Doha, Dubai, Erbil, Jeddah, Kabul, Khartoum in Sudan, Kuwait City, Manama, Muscat, Nouakchott in Mauritinia, Riyadh, Sana’a in Yeman and Tripoli in Libya.