News Column

U.S. Citizens Urged to Leave Yemen, Embassy Evacuated

August 6, 2013
Protest in Sana'a, Yemen, in February 2011 (photo: Sallam, Creative Commons)

The United States called Tuesday for its citizens to immediately leave Yemen and pulled non-essential embassy staff from the country, citing possible terrorist attacks.

The latest security measures came after an al-Qaeda threat prompted closures of 19 US diplomatic posts in the Middle East and North Africa. The closures have been extended through Saturday.

"We are concerned about a threat stream indicating the potential for terrorist attacks against US persons or facilities overseas, especially emanating from the Arabian Peninsula," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "As such, the department is taking appropriate steps to protect our employees, including local employees and visitors to our facilities."

The US Air Force removed State Department personnel from Yemen, Defence Department spokesman George Little said. They were due to arrive later Tuesday in Germany, Psaki said.

Psaki stressed the move was a "reduction in staffing," not a full evacuation, and that the embassy would continue to provide some services.

She disputed characterizations of the move by the Yemeni goverment that had claimed it served "the interests of the extremists and undermines the exceptional cooperation between Yemen and the international alliance against terrorism."

Britain withdrew all its embassy staff from Yemen, the Foreign Office said Tuesday, "due to increased security concerns."

Germany and France have closed their embassies in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a.

The Dutch government Tuesday urged its citizens to leave Yemen, joining other Western countries - many of which had likewise already closed embassies over the weekend - in the wave of concern about possible terrorist attacks during the end of Ramadan.

Yemen published the names of 25 suspects planning to carry out terrorist attacks on public and private institutions, announcing a 23,000-dollar reward for information leading to their captures. The government said had taken all necessary precautions to secure diplomatic facilities and strategic sites.

Four people with suspected links to al-Qaeda were killed in a US drone strike Tuesday in northern Yemen. The drone targeted the suspected militants' vehicle, the Mareb Press website reported.

In mid-2012, the Yemeni Army, backed by the United States, launched an offensive against Islamist militants with suspected ties to al-Qaeda in the south and east of the Arabian Peninsula country.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based affiliate of the global terrorist network, has repeatedly called for attacks on US diplomats and posts.

The Washington-based terrorism monitoring group IntelCenter said al-Qaeda discussions about attacking embassies have been intercepted seven times since December 2009, including three times in the last 11 months.

One of the clearest threats was made on September 15, four days after an attack on a US diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, where the US ambassador and three other Americans were killed.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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