By Jonathan Easley - 08/04/13 03:32 PM EDT
The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said Sunday that the terror threat that has U.S. officials on high alert is a “large operation” and that the intelligence the U.S. has gathered on it is as “specific and credible” as at any time since 9/11.
“Because of the specificity, where it’s coming from, the credibility of it, the level of chatter – it seems to be a fairly large operation,” he added. “It’s giving the intelligence community quite a bit of pause.”
The State Department closed more than 20 diplomatic posts and issued a worldwide travel alert as top administration officials huddled over the weekend at the White House to discuss the situation.
McCaul said U.S. officials have obtained new intelligence suggesting that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is in the final stages of planning attacks against a handful of U.S. and Western targets across the Middle East and Northern Africa.
He said recent prison breaks in countries like Iraq, Libya and Pakistan that freed hundreds of terrorists and criminals “represents a very high threat as well.”
McCaul also confirmed that the head of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had posted videos recently urging his followers to take up arms against the West.
“Zawahiri has basically set out a decree to the jihadists on his website saying now is the time to attack U.S. interests,” McCaul said. “This warning from Ayman al-Zawahiri comes right on the heels of the State Department warning and so that is of great concern to us.”
In addition, McCaul noted that Sunday is 27th day of Ramadan known as the “Night of Power,” when many terrorist operations have been conducted in the past.