Eighteen of the 19 US embassies and consulates that were closed in the Middle East and Africa because of a terrorist threat will reopen on Sunday, the State Department said.
The US Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, will remain closed. The US Consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, which was closed Thursday because of what officials say was a separate credible threat, also was not scheduled to reopen.
In the statement, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki did not cite a reason for the decision to reopen the 18 missions. She cited “ongoing concerns about a threat stream indicating the potential for terrorist attacks emanating from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP),’’ for keeping the embassy in Sanaa 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,’’ Psaki said.
The 19 outposts were closed to the public beginning last Sunday. Most American employees at the US Embassy in Yemen were ordered to leave the country on Tuesday because of threat information. An intercepted message between al-Qaeda officials about plans for a major terror attack triggered the closures.
The State Department issued a travel warning Thursday night regarding Pakistan, saying the presence of several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups posed a potential danger to US citizens throughout the country. At the same time officials ordered some government personnel to leave the US Consulate in Lahore.
In an appearance Tuesday on NBC’s “The Tonight Show,’’ Obama said the terror threat was “significant enough that we’re taking every precaution.’’
However, closing embassies and consulates called into question Obama’s assertion last spring that al-Qaeda’s headquarters was “a shadow of its former self’’ and his administration’s characterisation of the terror network’s leadership as “severely diminished’’ and “decimated.’’ On Friday, the President noted that he was referring to “core al-Qaida’’ and “what I also said was that al-Qaeda and other extremists have metastasized into regional groups that can pose significant dangers.’’
“So it’s entirely consistent to say... we still have regional organisations like AQAP that can pose a threat, that can drive potentially a truck bomb into an embassy wall and can kill some people,’’ Obama said.