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President: Al Qaeda is 'on the way to defeat'

President Obama on Wednesday declared al Qaeda to be "on the way to defeat" despite the new threat from the group that was intercepted by intelligence agencies. 

"Al Qaeda’s top ranks have been hammered," Obama said during a speech at Camp Pendelton, Calif. "The core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the way to defeat."

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Administration officials last Friday ordered the temporary closure of more than 20 diplomatic posts and issued a worldwide travel alert after government officials said they intercepted al Qaeda chatter that indicated a specific and imminent terror threat.

The State Department announced Sunday that the embassies would remain closed for another week as the terror threat across the region remained high.

The discovery of the plot has called into question Obama's claims to have severely weakened al Qaeda, which were a prominent part of his reelection campaign.

The president took a defiant tone on Wednesday, declaring the United States would not be held hostage by terrorists.

"Here's what those who cowardly attack civilians do not get. The United States will never retreat from the world," Obama said.

"We do not get terrorized. We're going to keep standing up to our enemies [and] we're going to keep standing up for the security of our citizens," Obama told the nearly 3,000 Marines in attendance.

"The United States of America is going to remain the greatest force for freedom that the world has ever known," he added. 

Obama's comments come as the White House, Pentagon and intelligence community continue to unravel details of a possible, large-scale attack against U.S. and allied targets. 

The Pentagon has placed its elite cadre of special operations teams on full alert to launch preemptive attacks against suspected al Qaeda targets across the globe, according to reports. 

The American special forces teams have spent the past week waiting for U.S. military and intelligence officials to confirm the whereabouts of the terror cell plotting to attack U.S. diplomatic outposts in the Mideast and North Africa. 

The closures and travel warnings came after U.S. intelligence officials intercepted communications between al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the head of al Qaeda's Yemen faction, known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). 

The intercepted communications reportedly detailed conversations between the two al Qaeda leaders, with al-Zawahiri pressing al-Wuhayshi to carry out large-scale attacks against U.S. and Western targets. 

On Wednesday, Yemeni officials said that it had foiled an AQAP plot to take over port cities in the south of the country and blow up oil pipelines.

Yemeni government spokesman Rageh Badi said that the broken-up terror plot included plans for al Qaeda militants to target the cities of Mukalla and Bawzeer, according to The Associated Press. 

Militants disguised as Yemeni troops also intended to attack two oil ports as part of the offensive.

Badi told the AP the militants hoped to sabotage oil pipelines to "create panic among Yemeni army and Yemeni security services."