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U.S. extends embassy closures after intercepted al Qaeda message

Barbara Starr. Chris Lawrence and Holly Yan | 8/5/2013, 6:41 a.m.
What started as an unprecedented move to close almost two dozen diplomatic posts for a day has broadened to week-long ...
A global travel alert issued Friday by the State Department said al Qaeda may launch attacks in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond in coming weeks, and the U.S. government prepared to close embassies and consulates in the region Sunday as a precaution. 21 embassies and consulates are expected to close. CNN

The State Department, in announcing its closures, alluded to this saying "a number of our embassies and consulates were going to be closed in accordance with local custom and practice for the bulk of the week for the Eid celebration at the end of Ramadan."

Britain also announced its embassy in Yemen will remain closed through the end of Eid "due to continuing security concerns," the embassy said in a statement.

Strategic reason

CNN national security analyst Francis Fragos Townsend said there could be a strategic reason for shutting down the diplomatic offices.

"Once you take targets away, it buys you additional time to try and disrupt, to identify the cell, the operators in country and the region, and work with your partners in the region to try and ... get them in custody or disrupt the plot," she said. "So, some of this operationally is about buying time."

List of closures

A total of 19 U.S. embassies and consulates will be closed Monday through Saturday.

The following 15 were part of the original list:

U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

U.S. Embassy Amman, Jordan

U.S. Embassy Cairo, Egypt

U.S. Consulate Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

U.S. Embassy Djibouti, Djibouti

U.S. Embassy Doha, Qatar

U.S. Consulate Dubai, United Arab Emirates

U.S. Consulate Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

U.S. Embassy Khartoum, Sudan

U.S. Embassy Kuwait City, Kuwait

U.S. Embassy Manama, Bahrain

U.S. Embassy Muscat, Oman

U.S. Embassy Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

U.S. Embassy Sanaa, Yemen

U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Libya

The following four embassies have been added:

U.S. Embassy Antananarivo, Madagascar

U.S. Embassy Bujumbura, Burundi

U.S. Embassy Kigali, Rwanda

U.S. Embassy Port Louis, Mauritius

CNN's Jill Dougherty, Dana Bash, Hamdi Alkhshali, Tom Cohen, Evan Perez, Gloria Borger, Jim Acosta, Elise Labott, Mohammed Jamjoon, NuNu Japaridze, Bharati Naik, Karen Smith and Hakim Almasmari contributed to this report.