US orders evacuation of Yemen embassy

The State Department on Tuesday ordered the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen amid intelligence reports about a possible al Qaeda attack on American missions abroad.

In a travel warning posted on the State website, the department ordered the departure of all “non-emergency” U.S. personnel from the country “due to the continued potential for terrorist attacks.”

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“U.S. citizens currently in Yemen should depart. As staff levels at the Embassy are restricted, our ability to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency and provide routine consular services remains limited and may be further constrained by the fluid security situation,” said State.

“The security threat level in Yemen is extremely high,” the note warned. 

Last week the U.S. closed 19 embassies across the Middle East and Africa, including the post in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, after intelligence agencies intercepted communications between top al Qaeda leaders signaling a possible attack. Those missions are expected to remain closed through this week. 

Reports said a U.S. drone strike in Yemen killed four suspected al Qaeda militants early Tuesday.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said Tuesday that the Air Force had helped evacuate American personnel.

"In response to a request from the U.S. State Department, early this morning the U.S. Air Force transported personnel out of Sana'a, Yemen as part of a reduction in emergency personnel,” he said in a statement. "The U.S. Department of Defense continues to have personnel on the ground in Yemen to support the U.S. State Department and monitor the security situation."

Despite the heightened terror alert, the White House on Monday pushed back against suggestions that al Qaeda and affiliated terror groups had regained strength since the killing of Osama bin Laden, the group's leader, in 2011.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said President Obama had been “clear that the threat from al Qaeda very much remains.” But Carney added that much of the group’s “core has been greatly diminished, not least because of the elimination of Osama bin Laden.”

Carney declined to provide more information on the terror threats that shuttered the U.S. embassies, except to note that the threat was “significant” and the administration was “taking it seriously.”

Jeremy Herb contributed

This story was last updated at 11:45 a.m.