The British embassy in Yemen is to close and several other embassies have been told to be vigilant as the US issues a global travel alert.
Britain said it would close its embassy in Yemen on Sunday and Monday, following news of the US terror alert.
“We are particularly concerned about the security situation in the final days of Ramadan and into Eid,” Britain’s Foreign Office said in a statement, referring to the Muslim holy month which ends on Wednesday.
“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,” it added, saying the travel alert would expire on 31 August.
The decision is based on the same intelligence that prompted it to close 21 U.S embassies and consulates on Sunday.
“The Department of State alerts U.S. 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,” its statement said.
In 2010, a suspected al-Qaeda suicide bomber tried to kill the British ambassador to Yemen in Sana’a. No-one except the attacker was killed.
Among the most prominent of al-Qaeda’s affiliates is Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemen-based group whose attempted attacks included the Christmas Day 2009 attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.
U.S security sources said the threat was related to AQAP but there was not a specific target. They also said that it was aimed at Western interests, an assessment later confirmed by the top U.S. military officer.
“The intent is to attack Western, not just U.S. interests,” General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told ABC News in an interview to be broadcast on its “This Week” programme on Sunday.
“There is a significant threat stream and we’re reacting to it,” he said, adding that the kind of potential attack was “unspecified.”
On Thursday, the State Department said U.S. embassies that would normally be open on Sunday – chiefly those in the Muslim world – would be closed that day because of security concerns, adding that they might be shut for a longer period.
The embassies in the following countries will be closed: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Mauritania, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
The consulates in Arbil, Iraq; Dhahran and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates will also be shut.
The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, which is normally closed to the public on Sunday, said all its facilities would be shut on Sunday and workers not essential for the building’s security had been told not to come in.
It also said the American Center in Jerusalem and the Haifa Consular Agency would be closed on Sunday.
While the U.S. State Department routinely releases what it describes as a “worldwide caution” warning U.S. citizens of the general potential danger of attacks around the world, Friday’s travel alert was based on more specific information, said one U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The previous “worldwide caution” was issued on 19 February.