Al-Qaeda 'order' for attack led to US terror alert
Decision to close embassies came after 'most serious' plot since 9/11
Yemen has been at the centre of the recent uptick in threat levels, and Johnsen said that US estimates of the group’s followers had actually increased. “The question I have is, If the Obama administration is confident that its strategy in Yemen is correct, then why is al-Qaeda growing in Yemen and why is the group still capable of forcing the United States to shut down embassies in more than a dozen countries?” Mr Johnsen said.
In an article posted on the web on Friday and published Saturday, The New York Times agreed to withhold the identities of the al-Qaeda leaders whose conversations were intercepted after senior US intelligence officials said the information could jeopardise their operations.
The names were disclosed Sunday by McClatchy Newspapers, and after the government became aware of the article Monday, it dropped its objections to The New York Times’ publishing the same information.
The State Department on Monday defended its decision Sunday to extend the closing of 19 diplomatic posts in the Middle East and North Africa through at least Saturday because of continued fears of an imminent attack. “We are going to keep evaluating information as it comes in, keep analysing the various intelligence that we’re getting in, in regards to this stream,” said a State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf. “Overall, what we are doing is taking precautionary steps out of an abundance of caution to protect our people and our facilities and visitors to those facilities overseas.”
The embassies that will be closed include the ones in Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the statement said. Embassies in Algiers, Baghdad and Kabul reopened Monday, as did the US embassy in Pakistan, even though the al-Qaeda threat that shuttered many other diplomatic missions emanated in part from that country. Still, rumours of an impending militant attack on Islamabad, the capital - and not necessarily on a US target - coursed through diplomatic and security circles last weekend.
Britain and France said Monday that they had extended the closing of their embassies until at least Thursday, after Washington announced that its embassy would stay shut until after Ramadan ends, which is to occur around Thursday in most places. The German mission was still closed Monday, while Norway had shut its embassies in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
Counterterrorism analysts, as well as former intelligence official, said closing the embassies - and depriving al-Qaeda of targets, at least for now - may have deterred an attack. “The announcement itself may also be designed to interrupt al-Qaeda planning, to put them off stride,” Michael V. Hayden, a former CIA director, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “To put them on the back foot, to let them know that we’re alert and that we’re on at least to a portion of this plotline.”
New York Tines