Global Travel Alert Tied to Yemen Threats

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 3 2013 2:40 PM

Global Travel Alert, Embassy Closures Tied to Yemen Threats

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The British embassy in the Yemeni capital Sana'a will be closed Sunday and Monday

Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images

Officials in Washington, along with diplomats in U.S. postings around the world, are on high alert this weekend amid warnings that fresh intelligence points to Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula being on the final stages of planning an attack on Western targets. The warning, which led to a global travel alert and closure of 22 embassies and consulates in the region Sunday, is specifically tied to Yemen, although intelligence analysts disagree on whether the threat is exclusively in that country or involves the whole region, reports CNN. Yemeni intelligence officials warned U.S. authorities of the threat when the country's president was in Washington earlier this week.

On Saturday it became clear the United States is not the only one worried. The U.K., French, and German embassies in Yemen will also be shut Sunday and Monday, reports the BBC. Experts say the planned terrorist plot could be tied to the killing of Said Ali al-Shihri, the deputy leader of al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate, notes the Washington Post. Meanwhile, Interpol issued a separate global security alert, noting that “hundreds of terrorists” had been freed in recent jailbreaks that took place in nine countries with a strong al-Qaida presence.

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"It is more specific and we are taking it seriously, which I think you'd expect us to do," Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told ABC News. "There is a significant threat stream and we're reacting to it." Dempsey added that while an exact target wasn’t known “the intent seems clear” and it’s “to attack Western, not just U.S., interests.”

Rep. Peter King, the head of the subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, said that while the location of the potential attack isn’t clear, the threat is “very specific as to when and it’s also very specific as to the fact that it is going to happen, so we have to be alert everywhere,” Fox News reports.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.