Saturday, August 3, 2013

Australian embassies open despite terrorism alert

Security arrangements at Australian embassies across the Middle East are being reviewed after the United States issued an alert about potential terrorist attacks and announced it will close consular offices in the region and North Africa on Sunday.

The move comes as Britain urged its citizens to leave Yemen amid plans to close its embassy in the capital Sana'a on Sunday and Monday.

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Bob Carr said Australia was reviewing the situation but had no plans to close embassies.

"We are in close contact with the US and the UK and they have shared information with us," he said.

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The spokesman said the decision to review security, but not to close the embassies, related to the "information that had been provided".

He said smart traveller alerts were also being reviewed, but in many cases the advice already was not to travel to those areas because of the high risk of a terrorist attack.

The US issued the worldwide alert on Friday about a possible terrorist attack in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula.

The US State Department also announced plans to close almost two dozen embassies and consulates across North Africa and the Middle East.

The alert and the closures come after the US reportedly intercepted electronic communications among senior al-Qaeda operatives discussing attacks against American interests in the Middle East and North Africa during August.

It also followed calls last week by the al-Qaeda chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri, for followers to launch attacks on US interests in response to its military operations in the Muslim world and drone strikes, including the strike in Yemen which last month killed the deputy leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Abu Sufyan al-Azdi.

The terror threat comes almost a year after the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi was attacked and four Americans, including the ambassador were killed.


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