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U.S. warns of al Qaeda attacks abroad

Official: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Kenya possible targets

A woman weeps at the damage from a May 12 blast at a compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. A U.S. official cites concerns about new attacks.
A woman weeps at the damage from a May 12 blast at a compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. A U.S. official cites concerns about new attacks.

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U.S. intelligence has reportedly been warned of possible attacks against U.S. interests in the Middle East and Africa.
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CNN's Jeanne Meserve on what's behind the new alert.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. government has received intelligence that al Qaeda is planning attacks against U.S. interests in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen and Kenya, a senior State Department official said.

The official said the intelligence spells out "a general threat" of attack but does not specify a target.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy in Manama, Bahrain, warned Americans that the United States had received "terrorist threat" information concerning the Persian Gulf country during the holidays.

The State Department official said the threat against Bahrain is part of broader reports indicating al Qaeda is planning a major attack in the United States or against U.S. interests abroad.

On Sunday, the Department of Homeland Security raised the U.S. terror threat alert level from elevated, or yellow, to high, or orange, the second-highest on the department's five-color warning system.

The State Department official added that the U.S. government is receiving good cooperation throughout the Persian Gulf in providing extra security to American facilities.

These nations "take this very seriously because they have seen what al Qaeda can do," the official said.

Countries such as Saudi Arabia are still reeling from bombings of housing compounds in May and last month in the capital, Riyadh.

Last week, the State Department authorized nonessential diplomats and families of U.S. officials to leave the kingdom because of security concerns and urged Americans to defer travel there.

The department also updated its worldwide caution, citing "increasing indications that al Qaeda is preparing to strike U.S. interests abroad."

"We expect al Qaeda will strive for new attacks designed to be more devastating than the September 11 attack, possibly involving nonconventional weapons such as chemical or biological agents," said a new caution issued Sunday.

"We also cannot rule out that al Qaeda will attempt a second catastrophic attack within the U.S."

The warning also said that terrorists could strike at targets frequented by Americans, such as residential areas, hotels, restaurants and places of worship.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday that one of the reasons the United States is concerned about areas such as the Persian Gulf and Turkey is because "al Qaeda ... hits the same place more than once."

Last month terrorists believed to be affiliated with al Qaeda bombed two synagogues and two British targets in Istanbul, Turkey.

All embassies and consulates are open, Boucher said, but they are at a heightened state of alert and take extra security precautions when necessary.

Embassies are working with American communities in certain countries to disseminate information about possible threats.

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