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Britain warns of terror threats


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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (CNN) -- The British government is warning of "high threats" of terrorism against Westerners and other targets in the Gulf-Arab nations of Bahrain and Qatar.

Eyewitnesses in Bahrain confirmed to CNN that there is a tightening of security around the British Embassy and other Western sites. But a British Embassy spokeswoman said security has not been increased and security personnel are following normal procedures.

On Friday, the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Saudi Arabia were ordered closed temporarily because of concerns that terrorists may be planning to launch an attack inside the kingdom.

In travel alerts Saturday on the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office Web site, it says "We judge that there is a high threat from terrorism against Western, including British, targets.

"We are particularly concerned about potential threats to places where Westerners might gather. You should review your security arrangements carefully. You should remain vigilant, particularly in public places."

The alerts said "developments in Iraq and on the Middle East peace process continue to have an impact on local public opinion in the region and this might be expressed by some people.

"You should follow news reports and be alert to regional developments. You should take sensible precautions for your personal safety and avoid public gatherings and demonstrations."

The British government has also issued lower-level terror alerts for Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, saying there are "significant" threats of terror in those countries.

An advisory put out Friday by the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh explained that the embassy "continues to receive credible information that terrorists in Saudi Arabia have moved from the planning to operational phase of planned attacks in the kingdom."

The closures affect the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and consulates in Jeddah and Dhahran. The advisory said they would be closed Saturday. One State Department official said they would remain closed Sunday and Monday.

The intelligence does not suggest any specific target or time, but officials said they assume American diplomatic and military facilities in Saudi Arabia would be high on terrorists' list of desired targets.

Officials said the intelligence includes "chatter on Web sites" and comments on publicly released audiotapes of al Qaeda leaders, as well as other information that has been gathered.

Another reason for concern about possible attacks, U.S. officials said, is that the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began last week.

The U.S. government has been working with Saudi authorities to fight terror since the triple bombings in May that targeted apartment complexes housing Westerners. Those bombings left 23 people dead, including nine Americans. Twelve bombers were also killed.

During the closures, U.S. diplomats will be reviewing security measures, explained the official.

Americans in the country will be informed when the review is done and the U.S. mission plans to go back to normal operations, the advisory said.

Also this week, the State Department warned of threats of anti-American violence in the Middle East and North Africa, "including terrorist actions that may involve commercial aircraft and maritime interests."

The public announcement specifically mentioned the risk of such actions in the Middle East, including the Red Sea area, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa.

And it reminded Americans about the terrorist threat in Southeast Asia, especially urging them to avoid the Malaysian state of Sabah.


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