Several western nations including Germany have closed embassies in Yemen following a US terror alert that prompted a worldwide travel warning. US officials met to review the threat after closing 21 diplomatic posts.
Germany joined France, Britain and the United States in closing its embassy in Yemen's capital Sanaa on Sunday just two days after the US issued its terror warning. The German foreign office said the embassy will remain closed on Sunday and Monday, the first two days of the working week in Yemen, over the security concerns.
Britain called on its citizens to leave the country on Sunday, while French President Francois Hollande urged citizens in Yemen to exercise caution.
Along with the embassy in Sanaa the United States has closed posts in Cairo, Kabul, Tripoli, Algiers, Amman, Djibouti, Dhaka, Doha, Khartoum, Kuwait City, Manama, Muscat and Nouakchott. It is also moving to shut additional offices in the Saudi cities of Riyadh, Jeddah and Dhahran; in Baghdad and Erbil, Iraq; and in the United Arab Emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Canada said its mission in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka would also be shut Sunday, saying it would "continue to monitor events closely and take appropriate security measures."
Interpol meanwhile issued its own global security alert, urging increased vigilance following a series of prison escapes in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan.
The global police agency said it "suspected al Qaeda involvement in several of the breakouts which led to the escape of hundreds of terrorists and other criminals."
US officials meet to review threat
US National Security Advisor Susan Rice led a high-level White House meeting on Saturday to discuss the weekend's embassy closures and worldwide travel warning. She was joined by Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, the heads of the FBI and CIA and other military and intelligence advisors, the White House said in a statement.
"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," the statement said.
President Barack Obama did not attend but was briefed afterwards.
The US government issued the terror alert on Friday, warning there was a "continued potential" for the al-Qaeda terror network or its supporters to carry out attacks on US citizens "particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula."
"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 travel alert said.
It warned of "the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure."
The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey said in an interview to be broadcast on America's ABC network on Sunday, that the threat uncovered by intelligence agencies was "more specific" than previous ones and the "intent is to attack Western, not just US interests."
It was the first such warning issued by the State Department since the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. It also comes less than a year after an attack on a US diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya that killed an ambassador and three other Americans.
ccp/hc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)