Fox News on August 4, 2013, reported that The State Department has announced that it will keep embassies in the Middle East and Africa closed throughout the week “out of an abundance of caution” in the wake of terror threats that shut them down.
The State Department also said some of those embassies were already going to be closed in accordance with local customs marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Capitol Hill lawmakers, including top-ranking members of intelligence committees, on August 4 described the terror threat that closed 22 U.S. embassies and consulates across the Muslim region as the most serious one since before the 9/11 attacks and related to specific act or plot.
Florida Republican Rep. Tom Rooney, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News that U.S. intelligence agents detected a “very specific” threat and suggested they have known about it for at least several weeks.
He was among several congressional lawmakers who said the threat was gleaned from so-called “chatter” from phone lines, computer outlets, websites and other communication outlets.
Rooney also said the information is not what intelligence committee members “see on our regular briefings.”
Rooney suggested the travel warning will not be lifted soon.
“If I had plans to travel to certain places in the Middle East, I would probably go ahead and cancel them,” he said.
Rooney’s comments followed Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, telling NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the threats are “very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11.”
He also described the threats as “the most serious … I’ve seen in a number of years.”
Sources said… the extraordinary volume of chatter was preceded by months of “absolute quietness.”
The sources said the chatter included Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri demanding that key leaders of the terror network in the Arabian Peninsula step up their activities in the wake of recent killings of top terrorists.
A Mideast diplomat said al-Zawahiri’s “pressuring” of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to launch new terrorist attacks on American and other Western targets is “unprecedented.”
The sources also said the U.S. outpost closings and the travel alert were prompted in part by a series of recent Al Qaeda-led prison breaks that have freed hundreds of operatives over the last month, including one this weekend in Aleppo, Syria. Other recent breaks have been orchestrated in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan and Abu Ghraib, in Afghanistan.
Maryland Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, also said the intercepted threats came from “high-level people” in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
He told ABC’s “This Week” the information was about a “major attack.”
Yemen is home to Al Qaeda’s most dangerous affiliate, blamed for several notable terrorist plots on the United States.
New York Republican Rep. Pete King, who leads the House Homeland Security subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence, said the threat included dates but not locations of possible attacks.
“The threat was specific as to how enormous it was going to be and also that certain dates were given,” he said on ABC.
The administration’s announcements on August 2 said the Al Qaeda network might target either U.S. government or private American interests.