Skip to main content

US to reopen all but one diplomatic post closed due to al Qaeda threat

By Elise Labott and Barbara Starr, CNN
updated 7:04 PM EDT, Fri August 9, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • State Department says 18 diplomatic posts will reopen on Sunday
  • Facilities in Yemen and Lahore, Pakistan, will stay closed for now
  • No link seen between the Pakistan threat and another one by al Qaeda that forced the wider closures
  • NEW: Obama says "we are not going to completely eliminate terrorism"

Washington (CNN) -- All but one of the U.S. diplomatic posts closed this week in a sweeping response to fears of a possible al Qaeda attack will reopen on Sunday, the State Department said.

The Obama administration closed 19 embassies and consulates throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and issued a worldwide travel alert due to the threat apparently linked to communications between leaders of the terror group.

The closures took effect on Sunday.

The embassy in Sanaa Yemen, where al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in based, will remain closed due to continued concerns about a possible attack.

Separately, the State Department withdrew most of its diplomatic personnel from its consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, on Thursday, citing a "separate credible threat" and warned U.S. citizens against travel to Pakistan.

Diplomatic personnel were moved to the capital, Islamabad. The Lahore facility also will remain closed.

"We will continue to evaluate the threats to Sanaa and Lahore and make subsequent decisions about the reopening of those facilities based on that information," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

"We will also continue to evaluate information about these and all of our posts and to take appropriate steps to best protect the safety of our personnel, American citizens traveling overseas, and visitors to our facilities," she added.

One U.S. official said there was no link between the broader terror threat and the reason for the action taken in Lahore. However, the official said it doesn't rule out a possible link to al Qaeda.

Most of al Qaeda's core leadership is believed to reside in Pakistan and Lahore known to be home to other extremists sympathetic to the group.

Response to terror threat scrutinized: Did U.S. go too far?

No U.S. diplomatic posts in Pakistan were closed as a result of the wider warning inked to al Qaeda.

Read more: Yemen says it foiled al Qaeda plot

In that case, CNN previously reported U.S. officials intercepted a message between al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and a top ally in Yemen, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, telling him to "do something" -- an inference to a terror plot.

Now, two U.S. officials tell CNN that in his communication with Zawahiri, Wuhayshi, who is the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, laid out a plan for a plot and then Zawahiri acknowledged the communication.

Wuhayshi, the officials said, was not asking for permission from Zawahiri -- but rather informing him of his plans.

This scenario -- that Wuhayshi presented Zawahiri with a plan -- was first reported Friday in the Wall Street Journal.

CNN has also learned that the al Qaeda leaders communicated via some kind of encrypted messaging system, with multiple points of entry to allow for various parties to join in.

Asked about his assessment of the terror group in light of the latest threat, President Barack Obama reiterated his conclusion that its core blamed for 9/11 is "on its heels."

But he restated that al Qaeda and other extremist groups "have metastasized" into regional organizations that can still threaten U.S. interests, including embassies.

"And that's exactly what we are seeing right now," Obama said, noting that anti-terror efforts are an ongoing process.

"We are not going to completely eliminate terrorism. What we can do is to weaken it and to strengthen our partnerships in such a way that it does not pose the kind of horrible threat that we saw on 9/11," he said.

The origin of the Pakistan threat was not clear but a separate official said it was "conceivable" Lashkar-e-Tayyiba was involved. Lahore is well-known as a base for that group, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States.

Journalist Annabel Symington in Islamabad contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:54 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
updated 7:24 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
updated 1:44 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
updated 8:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 3:22 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 6:34 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT