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Terror threat prompts U.S. embassy closures overseas

By Chris Lawrence and Barbara Starr, CNN
updated 9:25 AM EDT, Fri August 2, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Overseas threat said to be "credible and serious"
  • Embassies in Egypt, Libya, Israel and Iraq among those closed on Sunday
  • State Department said closure orders a precaution
  • Action occurs amid approaching end of Ramadan, anniversary of Benghazi attack

Was there a political cover up surrounding the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans? Watch a CNN special investigation — The Truth About Benghazi, Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET.

Washington (CNN) -- [Breaking news alert, 8:41 a.m. ET]

Al Qaeda is linked to a terror threat that has prompted the State Department to direct its embassies in key Middle East nations, including Egypt and Israel, to close Sunday, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, R-California, told CNN's "New Day" Friday. "It's my understanding that it is al Qaeda linked, alright, and the threat emanates in the Middle East and in Central Asia."

[Previously published story, 8:56 p.m. ET]

A terror threat prompted the State Department on Thursday to direct its embassies in key Middle East nations, including Egypt and Israel, to close on Sunday with the possibility they could remain idle longer.

A U.S. official not authorized to speak publicly on the matter called the threat "credible and serious."

It was "directed at American targets overseas," but may not be confined to main diplomatic facilities, the official said.

In addition to Egypt and Israel, the State Department action includes diplomatic facilities in Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iraq and Kuwait, according to the agency and Twitter postings.

Attackers set the U.S. Consulate compound in Benghazi, Libya, on fire on September 11, 2012. The U.S. ambassador and three other U.S. nationals were killed during the attack. The Obama administration initially blamed a mob inflamed by a U.S.-produced movie that mocked Islam and its Prophet Mohammed, but later said the storming of the consulate appears to have been a terrorist attack. View photos of protesters storming the U.S. Embassy buildings in 2012. Attackers set the U.S. Consulate compound in Benghazi, Libya, on fire on September 11, 2012. The U.S. ambassador and three other U.S. nationals were killed during the attack. The Obama administration initially blamed a mob inflamed by a U.S.-produced movie that mocked Islam and its Prophet Mohammed, but later said the storming of the consulate appears to have been a terrorist attack. View photos of protesters storming the U.S. Embassy buildings in 2012.
Attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya
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Photos: Attack on U.S. Consulate in Libya Photos: Attack on U.S. Consulate in Libya
Potential terror threat in Mideast
Central Asia cause of embassy threat

A senior State Department official said the agency has told those embassies that normally would be beginning the work week on Sunday to close, but additional days could be added.

Diplomatic facilities in the region are for the most part closed or operate with minimal staff on Fridays and Saturdays.

Separately, another U.S. official told CNN that the Obama administration is monitoring threats against the embassy in Sanaa, Yemen.

The official did not say whether the embassy would close.

President Barack Obama met with Yemen President Abdo Rabu Mansour Hadi at the White House on Thursday. Yemen has been cracking down on al Qaeda.

A U.S. official earlier told CNN the embassy closures were because of "more than the usual chatter" about a potential terrorist threat, which was not specific about time and location.

Officials said the time frame comes with the approaching end of Ramadan and the one-year anniversary of the terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the agency was taking the steps at diplomatic sites out of an abundance of caution.

Read more: CNN found embassy attack suspect before FBI

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo noted on its website media reports of possible marches or demonstrations on Friday and possibly throughout the weekend.

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