According to a US State Department spokeswoman, the closures are due to an “abundance of caution,” but “not an indication of a new threat.”
US embassies and consulates in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Libya, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, and Oman, as well as several in Africa, will remain closed until Saturday, August 10.
However, diplomatic posts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Algeria are reported to have re-opened after being closed on the weekend.
According to press reports, the US government originally decided to close the embassies on Sunday after its intelligence agencies intercepted a phone call between leaders of the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) group in which an attack on an embassy was discussed.
AQAP, based in troubled areas of Yemen, has attempted a number of attacks against US and other targets in recent years, with mixed success.
The threat was discussed at a high-level meeting at the White House on Saturday, chaired by Susan Rice, President Obama’s new national security advisor.
A White House statement said: “Early this week, the president instructed his national security team to take all appropriate steps to protect the American people in light of a potential threat occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula.”
The decision also coincided with the issuing of a global travel advisory by the State Department on Friday, warning US citizens of the “continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula” throughout the month of August.
Warnings of the risk of a terrorist attack were echoed by some members of US Congress serving on security and intelligence committees.
Senator Saxby Chambliss, the senior Republican member of the Senate’s intelligence committee, said the threat was “the most serious” he had seen in several years during a TV interview on Sunday.
The same day, Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat on the House of Representatives’ intelligence committee, said that intelligence pointed to the possibility of AQAP attempting a “major attack” in the near future.
The decision to close US embassies in across the Middle East and North Africa follows feuding in Washington over the response to the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in September of 2012, which killed US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
The attack has been the subject of a number of Congressional investigations and hearings, raising the profile and sensitivity of the issue of the safety and security of US diplomatic missions.
The UK has also decided to extend the closure its embassy in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, until the end of Ramadan. After being shut on Sunday as a precaution, it was originally scheduled to reopen on Tuesday. Other British diplomatic missions in the Middle East will continue to operate as normal.