UPDATED: Nearly two dozen U.S. embassies and consulates in Muslim countries will be closed on Aug. 4 because of a potential terrorist threat, according to U.S. officials. A worldwide travel alert has also been issued through Aug. 31.
NBC News reports that the threat appears to be related to al-Qaida and connected to the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, although a State Department spokesperson declined to elaborate on any specifics.
The embassies and consulates set for closure on Sunday are located throughout the Middle East, Asia, and Northern Africa, and a State Department official said it is possible that some could remain closed beyond Sunday.
“Out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installations, that indicates we should institute these precautionary steps,” Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, told NBC News.
Officials said the U.S. had reason to believe al-Qaida and affiliated organizations “may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August,” but no target was specified.
“Obviously it’s serious enough that we are taking concrete steps to make sure our personnel overseas are safe,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House intelligence committee.
House Foreign Affairs chairman Ed Royce, a California Republican, told Andrea Mitchell that even if it becomes necessary to keep facilities closed beyond Sunday, closures in other parts of the world are unlikely. “This is regional. This is the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, Central Asia,” Royce said.
In September of last year, an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, led to the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.