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Al-Qaida chief’s message led to embassy closures

August 5, 2013 • National News


A Yemeni soldier stops a car at a checkpoint in a street leading to the U.S. embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2013. Security forces close access roads, put up extra blast walls and beef up patrols near some of the 21 U.S. diplomatic missions in the Muslim world that Washington ordered closed for the weekend over a “significant threat” of an al-Qaida attack. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

WASHINGTON (AP) — An intercepted secret message between al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri and his deputy in Yemen about plans for a major terror attack was the trigger that set off the current shutdown of many U.S. embassies, two officials told The Associated Press on Monday.

A U.S. intelligence official and a Mideast diplomat said al-Zawahri’s message was picked up several weeks ago and appeared to initially target Yemeni interests. The threat was expanded to include American or other Western sites abroad, officials said, indicating the target could be a single embassy, a number of posts or some other site. Lawmakers have said it was a massive plot in the final stages, but they have offered no specifics.

The intelligence official said the message was sent to Nasser al-Wahishi, the head of the terror network’s organization, based in Yemen, known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the sensitive issue publicly.

American spies and intelligence analysts on Monday scoured email, phone calls and radio communications between al-Qaida operatives in Yemen and the organization’s senior leaders to determine the timing and targets of the planned attack.

The call from al-Zawahri, who took over for Osama bin Laden after U.S. Navy SEALs killed the al-Qaida leader in May 2011, led the Obama administration to close diplomatic posts from Mauritania on Africa’s west coast through the Middle East to Bangladesh, east of India, and as far south as Madagascar.

The U.S. did decide to reopen some posts on Monday, including well-defended embassies in Kabul, Login to read more

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