Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting MBS to 80360 or you can e-mail us Click here for details »
Messages 'behind embassy shutdown'
Intercepted messages between the head of al Qaida and his deputy in Yemen about a major terror attack triggered the shut down of the country's British embassy, it has been reported.
A number of US embassies across the Middle East and North Africa were closed at the weekend, along with the British embassy in Yemen, after the secret plans discussed by al Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri and Nasser al-Wahishi were picked up two weeks ago by US intelligence officials, sources said.
A US intelligence official and a Middle East diplomat, who did not want to be named, said the threat was at first thought to only target Yemeni interests but was later expanded to include American and other Western sites abroad. Politicians have said it was a massive plot in the final stages but have offered no details, the Associated Press said.
The British embassy in Yemen will remain closed until the end of the Muslim festival Eid amid "continuing security concerns", the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said.
US officials said a number of its embassies in north Africa and the Middle East would remain shut until Saturday over a possible militant threat. Authorities have not yet specified the nature of the threat which led to the decision to close the embassy and the Foreign Office would not confirm the reports.
Eid marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with the FCO recommending particular vigilance as "tensions could be heightened". British nationals have been warned there is a "high threat" from terrorism in the Middle Eastern country.
The FCO has been warned against all travel to Yemen, and those in the country have been advised to leave immediately, as it is "extremely unlikely" that their evacuation could be arranged if the security situation deteriorates.
"There is a high threat from terrorism throughout Yemen", the FCO said. "Terrorists continue to threaten further attacks. There is a very high threat of kidnap from armed tribes, criminals and terrorists."
American spies and intelligence analysts have been scouring email, phone calls and radio communications between al Qaida operatives in Yemen and the organisation's senior leaders to determine the timing and targets of the planned attack.
But a US official added that the decision to close the embassies was based on a broad swathe of information and not just the intercepted messages, AP said. US diplomatic posts in 19 cities in the Muslim world will be closed at least until the end of this week, with officials citing "an abundance of caution".