Monday, August 5, 2013

UK embassy in Yemen to stay shut as US extends closures amid security threats - The Independent

The British embassy in Yemen is to remain closed until the Muslim festival of Eid is finished amid "continuing security concerns" and fears "tensions could be heightened", the Foreign Office said.

The temporary closure of the embassy in the Yemen capital Sana'a has been extended until later this week, as US officials said a number of its embassies in north Africa and the Middle East would remain shut until Saturday over a possible militant threat.

The FCO are recommending particular vigilance during Eid, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Officials said the closure of US diplomatic posts in 19 cities in the Muslim world was due to "an abundance of caution", not a reactionary measure to new threats.

UK authorities have not specified the nature of the threat which led to the decision to close the embassy. However, British nationals have been warned there is a "high threat" from terrorism in the Middle Eastern country.

British nationals are also being warned against traveling to Yemen and those currently in the country have been advised to leave immediately, adding that evacuating them in an emergency would be difficult if the security situation deteriorates.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "Due to continuing security concerns the British embassy in Yemen will remain closed until the end of Eid."

The exact date that the embassy will reopen has not been announced, although the festival is due to finish on Thursday.

"There is a high threat from terrorism throughout Yemen", the Foreign Office said, adding that terrorists are continuing to threaten further attacks. "There is a very high threat of kidnap from armed tribes, criminals and terrorists."

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the decision to keep the embassies and consulates closed was "not an indication of a new threat", but "merely an indication of our commitment to exercise caution and take appropriate steps to protect our employees, including local employees, and visitors to our facilities".

Diplomatic buildings will remain closed in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, among other countries, until Saturday, August 10. The State Department added closures of four African sites, in Madagascar, Burundi, Rwanda and Mauritius.

However, the US has also decided to reopen some posts today, including those in Kabul and Baghdad.

The warnings came following intelligence gathered by the US from intercepted communications between senior al-Qa'ida figures that seemed to have suggested a possible militant threat.

Interpol has warned countries around the world to be on their guard following a series of prison breaks believed to be linked to the al-Qa'ida terror network.

In a statement issued from its general secretariat HQ in Lyon, France, Interpol urged countries to show "increased vigilance", following a series of prison escapes over the past month, which freed hundreds of terrorists in nine states including Iraq, Libya and Pakistan.

"With suspected al-Qa'ida involvement in several of the breakouts which led to the escape of hundreds of terrorists and other criminals, the Interpol alert requests the organisation's 190 member countries' assistance in order to determine whether any of these recent events are co-ordinated or linked," the statement said.

"Interpol is asking its member countries to closely follow and swiftly process any information linked to these events and the escaped prisoners. They are also requested to alert the relevant member country and Interpol general secretariat headquarters if any escaped terrorist is located or intelligence developed which could help prevent another terrorist attack."

Yemen has become a stronghold of al-Qa'ida over recent years, and is home to al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula, despite efforts by the country's authorities to suppress the group and US drones killing leaders including Anwar al-Awlaki. Yemen was the source of an attempt to bomb a US-bound airliner in 2009.
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