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Threat prompts US to issue global travel alert amid embassies closing for a day

The United States has issued a global travel alert and will be closing several embassies and consulates around the Muslim world on Sunday over security concerns. The State Department cited an al-Qaeda threat.

The State Department warned US citizens Friday of the potential for terrorism particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.

"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 statement said.

The alert asks Americans to take extra precautions when traveling overseas. It also suggested they register with consulates or embassies in the countries they are visiting.

The alert was posted a day after the US State Department said it would close a number of embassies and consulates on Sunday as a security precaution.

"The Department of State has instructed certain US embassies and consulates to remain closed or to suspend operations on Sunday, August 4th," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters at her daily briefing.

"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 ... indicates we should institute these precautionary steps," Harf added.

She said the closures were planned to last a day, but could go on for longer. She did not detail any specific threat.

A State Department official later told reporters that the diplomatic facilities were ones that would have normally been open on Sunday. These include several US missions in the Muslim world and in Israel, where Sunday is a normal workday.

CBS News said US embassies would be closed in Bahrain, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Other embassies usually open on a Sunday include those in Baghdad, Cairo and Abu Dhabi. 

The European Union said Friday it was not aware of any terrorist threat against its embassies. European Commission spokesman Alexandre Polack said EU diplomats were in contact with their US counterparts and taking necessary precautions.

Last September, the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed when militants assaulted the diplomatic post in Benghazi.

tj/dr (dpa, AP, Reuters)