U.S. embassies that would normally be open this Sunday - including those in Tel Aviv, Cairo and Amman - will be closed that day because of unspecified security concerns, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday.
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CBS News reported that the embassy closings were tied to U.S. intelligence about an Al-Qaida plot against U.S. diplomatic posts in the Middle East and other Muslim countries. CBS said the intelligence did not mention a specific location.
"The Department of State has instructed certain U.S. embassies and consulates to remain closed or to suspend operations on Sunday, August 4th," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters at her daily briefing. "Security considerations have led us to take this precautionary step."
Harf declined to detail the "security considerations" or name the embassies and consulates that would be closed, but a senior State Department official told reporters later they were those that would normally have been open on Sunday.
A quick search of the State Department website showed that those included several U.S. missions in the Muslim world, including the embassies in Tel Aviv, Cairo, Amman and Baghdad.
In an emergency message sent out Friday, the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv announced that all embassy facilities would be closed on Sunday August 4, including the American Center in Jerusalem and the Haifa Consular Agency. "The Embassy is instructing all U.S. government employees not required for ensuring essential building safety and security not to come into Embassy facilities for afterhours work on Sunday, August 4," the message said. It added that, depending on later assessment, there may be additional days of closings of U.S. facilities.
CBS News said U.S. embassies would also be closed in Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
"The department has been apprised of information that, out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installations ... indicates we should institute these precautionary steps," Harf said. "The department, when conditions warrant, takes steps like this to balance our continued operations with security and safety."