A warning posted on the State Department’s website on Tuesday said that “security threat level in Yemen is extremely high,” and warned Americans to depart or avoid the country “due to the continued potential for terrorist attacks.”
The move follows the temporary closure of more than 20 US diplomatic facilities in Yemen and across the Middle East and north-east Africa on Sunday, a closure which was then extended until Saturday. In addition, the State Department issued a global travel warning for US citizens on August 2, which warned of “continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula” in the month of August.
The UK also announced on Tuesday that it was closing its embassy in Sana’a and evacuating its staff as a “precaution,” having previously announced that the embassy would be closed until the end of Ramadan. The French and German embassies will also remain closed this week.
American media outlets reported on Monday that the warnings and embassy closures were prompted by intercepted messages between the head of the Al-Qaeda organization, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and the head of its Yemen affiliate, Nasser Al-Wuhayshi, in which an attack on an American diplomatic post was discussed.
A security source told the BBC that Yemeni intelligence had recently detected the arrival of several Al-Qaeda operatives in Sana’a. In recent days, hundreds of soldiers and armoured vehicles have been deployed in the city to guard the presidential palace, key pieces of infrastructure and western embassies.
Yemeni security officials announced earlier this month that members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) were planning to launch terrorist attacks in the country during the Eid Al-Fitr festival celebrating the end of Ramadam, which takes place this week.
In response, the Yemeni government issued a ‘wanted’ list of 25 suspected terrorists, and offered a reward for information leading to their capture.
This latest development also coincides with another US drone attack on Yemeni territory, which reportedly killed four suspected members of Al-Qaeda on Tuesday morning, according to local tribal leaders and Yemen’s state news agency.
This follows reports of five more drone strikes in recent weeks.
Speaking yesterday, a US State Department spokeswoman refused to comment on the reports, or possible connections between the department’s security warnings and recent drone attacks.