Lawmaker: Al Qaeda threat is reason for US embassy closures

The State Department is closing embassies in response to a threat from al Qaeda, according to the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said the threat was behind the State Department's announcement on Thursday that it would close a number of embassies and consulates around the world out of unspecified “security concerns.”

“It's my understanding that it is al Qaeda-linked, all right? And the threat emanates in the Middle East and in Central Asia,” Royce said Friday on CNN.

Already, the posts in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar have put out messages informing the public that they will be closed on Sunday, which is a workday in many Muslim countries.

NBC News had previously reported U.S. officials had mentioned al Qaeda in regard to the threat. 

Royce said Vice President Biden briefed him and his Democratic counterpart on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), earlier this week about the threat. 

Royce’s committee advanced legislation this week that would fund embassy security at the full amount and bolster Marine guard security at diplomatic posts. The death of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, in Benghazi, Libya, last September has shined a spotlight on the vulnerabilities of the outposts.

“It [is] just like before 9/11, the attack on Benghazi,” Royce said. “At that point in time, remember someone forgot to circle the calendar that it was 9/11. And we might want to preposition assets or have contingency plans in place. This time, this with the intel, steps are being taken. And that's to protect our personnel.”