A Yemeni soldier inspects a car at a checkpoint leading to the U.S. embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2013.
2. The United States Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, issued this emergency message on Tuesday.
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest. The Department urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen and those U.S. citizens currently living in Yemen to depart immediately.
On August 6, 2013, the Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Yemen due to the continued potential for terrorist attacks.
U.S. citizens currently in Yemen should depart. As staff levels at the Embassy are restricted, our ability to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency and provide routine consular services remains limited and may be further constrained by the fluid security situation. This supersedes the Travel Warning for Yemen issued on July 16, 2013.
The security threat level in Yemen is extremely high. In September 2012, a mob attacked the U.S. Embassy compound. Demonstrations continue to take place in various parts of the country and may quickly escalate and turn violent. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid areas of demonstrations, and to exercise extreme caution if within the vicinity of a demonstration.
Terrorist organizations, including Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), continue to be active throughout Yemen. The U.S. government remains highly concerned about possible attacks on U.S. citizens (whether visiting or residing in Yemen), and U.S. facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests.
The U.S. government issued a worldwide travel alert and closed 19 embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Africa this week after intercepting communications between top al-Qaeda leaders planning a major terror attack.
The secret messages between al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri and Nasser al-Wahishi, his deputy in Yemen, reportedly called for a big and “strategically significant” attack, and indicated possible strikes on Western targets could coincide with the end of Ramadan.
Al-Zawahri, who took over after Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in May 2011, reportedly commanded terror operatives in Yemen to “do something,” igniting fears of an imminent attack and prompting the Obama administration to close the diplomatic posts.
The messages also raised concerns over a new generation of liquid explosives that could be used in an attack, two senior U.S. government officials told ABC News. There has been concern of liquid bombs since the failed Christmas Day bombing in 2009, but the new tactic reportedly allows terrorists to dip clothing into a liquid to make the clothes themselves into explosives once dry. It is currently undetectable.
U.S. agencies are also concerned the attack could use what some call “Frankenbombers,” devices sewn or implanted into their body, one of the U.S. officials said.
The U.S. did decide to reopen some posts on Monday, including well-defended embassies in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, the AP reported. The State Department said Sunday the unprecedented security steps reflect an “abundance of caution.”
Update - Tuesday, Aug. 6, 11 a.m. EDT: According to the Associated Press, the U.S. military has evacuated all non-essential government personnel from Yemen.
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