The US state department has issued a global travel alert because of an unspecified al-Qaeda threat. In a statement, the department said the potential for an attack was particularly strong in the Middle East and North Africa.
It comes shortly after the US announced nearly two dozen embassies and consulates would be shut on Sunday. The alert expires on 31 August 2013, the department said. It recommended US citizens travelling abroad be vigilant.
“Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August,” the statement said. The alert warned of “the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure”.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, said that congressional leaders had been briefed about the alert. “There is some understanding of the seriousness of the threat,” she told reporters.
Republican lawmaker Jason Chaffetz said he understood there was “a very real worldwide threat”.
Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said the threat was not prompted by “the regular chit chat” gleaned from would-be militants online or elsewhere.
“The most important thing we have to do is protect American lives,” he told the Associated Press news agency.
An unnamed senior US official told NBC the threat may be related to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which ends next week.