Intercepted communication between al Qaeda leaders prompted the terror alert which led to the closure of US embassies in West Asia and North Africa.
In one communication al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri ordered Nasir al-Wuhayshi to stage an attack, according to reports in the US media.
Wuhayshi heads al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is emerging as the most effective wing of the outfit that has been largely decimated in Afghanistan-Pakistan.
Terrorism experts said Wuhayshi, who was once the private secretary to Osama bin Laden, has moved up the al Qaeda hierarchy and is Zawahri’s deputy. The US on Sunday announced the closure of 19 embassies for the entire week, up until August 10 in view of heightened terror threat, without assigning any specific reason or cause.
Lawmakers briefed by the intelligence community have said the alert was prompted by intercepts — or “chatter” — of the kind that preceded the attacks on September 11, 2000.
“I would say that the threat is emanating from and may be directed towards the Arabian Peninsula, but it is beyond that, potentially,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney on Monday.
“And that is why we have taken some of the actions we’ve taken.”