The US extended its worldwide terror alert temporarily shutting down 19 missions in West Asia and North Africa fearing attacks from al Qaeda.
Though the administration has not disclosed any specifics about the alert, lawmakers briefed about it said US intelligence has picked up 9/11-like terror “chatter”.
Though the alerts didn’t indicate a threat to Indian missions, people traveling to these areas — a lot of Indians travel to Dubai and Abu Dhabi — would be monitoring these alerts.
The 19 embassies and missions that will remain closed for the rest of the week, up until at least Saturday, August 10, are Abu Dhabi, Amman, Cairo, Riyadh, Dhahran, Jeddah, Doha, Dubai, Kuwait, Manama, Muscat, Sanaa, Tripoli, Antanarivo, Bujumbura, Djibouti, Khartoum, Kigali, and Port Louis.
The US had announced last Saturday it was shutting down 22 embassies and missions for the weekend — some countries work on Saturday and Sunday — in view of the same threat. Some of them reopened on Monday, according to the state department.
The US is not taking chances in view of previous attacks on its missions, the most recent being Benghazi in Libya, in 2012. “This is the most serious threat that I’ve seen in the last several years,” Saxby Chambliss, top Republican senator on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on TV news show.
The intercepts indicate al Qaeda’s Yemeni outfit — also called al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — is planning to target US and Western countries, in West Asia and north Africa.
Lawmakers have also said the attacks could happen elsewhere, based on their briefings. “The assumption is that it’s probably most likely to happen in the Middle East,” said Representative Peter T King, Republican of New York. “It could basically be in Europe, it could be in the United States.”
These intercepts by the National Surveillance Agency (NSA) may indicate its ability to track terrorists remains unimpeded the leaks by its former contractor Edward Snowden. Intelligence agencies had then claimed the leaks had made terrorist change their communication methods and processes.
One US lawmaker who is opposed to these surveillance tools has said that it’s now clear those compromised programmes were never crucial to NSA’s effectiveness.