(CBS NEWS) An al Qaeda plot is linked to an announcement by the State Department that it was closing several consulates and embassies around the world on Sunday due to a security threat, CBS News has learned.
CBS News correspondent David Martin reports that U.S. intelligence has picked up signs of an al Qaeda plot against American diplomatic posts in the Middle East and other Muslim countries. The intelligence does not mention a specific location, which is why all embassies that would normally be open on Sunday have been ordered to close. That includes embassies and consulates in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, where Sunday is the start of the work week.
Martin further reported that officials say this appears to be a real plot in the making and not just the normal chatter among terrorists talking about attacks they'd like to carry out. But these same officials add they are missing key pieces of information.
As of 7:00 a.m. ET Friday, at least 17 embassies have announced that they will close on Sunday in accordance with the State Department's guidance, including the U.S. embassies in Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Mauritania, Sudan and Djibouti.
A senior State Department official told CBS News: "For those who asked about which embassies and consulates we have instructed to suspend operations on August 4th, the answer is that we have instructed all U.S. Embassies and Consulates that would have normally been open on Sunday to suspend operations, specifically on August 4th. It is possible we may have additional days of closing as well." The official added: "The Department, when conditions warrant, takes steps like this to balance our continued operations with security and safety."