Earlier this week, the State Department announced that almost two dozen United States embassies across the Middle East and Asia would temporarily close over the weekend due to a possible Al Qaeda threat, and a global travel alert warning Americans to "take extra precautions" overseas was issued for the entire month. On Saturday, Interpol put out a global security alert asking member countries to watch out for the thousands of terrorism suspects who escaped during July's troubling cluster of prison breaks in Iraq, Libya, and Pakistan. The organization is looking into whether the operations were linked. Now, the State Department has said that nineteen diplomatic offices located in Muslim countries — including posts in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait — will remain shuttered through next Saturday "out of an abundance of caution."
The exact nature of the possible terrorist plot that triggered the warnings is still unclear, though NBC News reports that intelligence officials have said they're worried about a "significant" attack that could involve a single target or several targets around the world. NBC sources also said the threat appears to have come out of Yemen, where Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is based. Probably with that in mind, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany also decided to shut down their Yemen embassies through Monday.
Meanwhile, several members of Congress who had attended a briefing on the matter went on the Sunday news shows to attest to the scariness of the threat, though they of course didn't provide any specifics. On Meet the Press, Georgia Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss called the threat "the most serious" he'd seen "in the last several years," and Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin confirmed that the situation is "a big deal." Over at Face the Nation, Republican House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul cited the threat's "specificity, because of where it's coming from, the level of chatter" as proof of its seriousness, and called the embassy closures "a smart call." So, now we know, not that there's much most of us can do about it.