US to reopen 18 of 19 embassies that were closed by terror threat

The United States on Sunday will reopen 18 of the 19 embassies and consulates that have been closed for the past week over a potential terrorism threat, the State Department said Friday.

The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, will remain closed “because of ongoing concerns about a threat stream indicating the potential for terrorist attacks emanating from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP),” an al Qaeda affiliate based in Yemen, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

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The U.S. Consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, which was closed on Thursday due to a separate threat, will not reopen either.

“We will continue to evaluate the threats to Sanaa and Lahore and make subsequent decisions about the re-opening of those facilities based on that information,” Psaki said. “We will also continue to evaluate information about these and all of our posts and to take appropriate steps to best protect the safety of our personnel, American citizens traveling overseas, and visitors to our facilities.”

The diplomatic posts across the Middle East and Africa had been shuttered over the past week over the threat of an al Qaeda terrorism plot.

The decision to close the embassies came after U.S. intelligence reportedly intercepted a message between the leader of al Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahri and Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the head of AQAP.

The U.S. has ramped up a major drone offensive in Yemen over the past two weeks, launching a reported eight drone attacks that have killed 34 suspected al Qaeda militants.

President Obama declined to confirm at his press conference Friday that the U.S. was behind the latest Yemen drone strikes, although the administration has previously acknowledged its drone program in Yemen and Pakistan.

“I will not have a discussion about operational issues,” Obama said Friday.