STATE DEPARTMENT— The United States is shutting down more than 20 embassies and consulates Sunday and has issued a worldwide travel alert to U.S. citizens, warning of an al-Qaida terrorist threat.
The State Department alert, issued Friday, says the potential for terrorist attacks is particularly strong in the Middle East and North Africa. It says al-Qaida and its affiliates may focus efforts to conduct attacks anytime between now and the end of August and that those attacks could possibly come from the Arabian Peninsula.
On Saturday, the international police organization Interpol issued its own global security alert stemming from recent prison escapes in Iraq, Libya, Pakistan and six other countries.
Interpol says al-Qaida is suspected of involvement in several of the breakouts, which it says led to the escape of "hundreds of terrorists and other criminals."
The Interpol alert calls on the organization's 190 member countries to help determine whether any of the jailbreaks are coordinated or linked.
Most of the U.S. embassies and consulates being closed Sunday are in the Muslim world — including embassies in Iraq, Libya and Yemen.
Britain and Germany later announced that they also will close their embassies in Yemen on Sunday and Monday due to increased security concerns.
Britain's Foreign Office noted particular concerns in the final days of Ramadan — the Muslim holy month of fasting.
The U.S. State Department, meanwhile, has called the embassy closures a precautionary measure. Officials say the closures could be extended after an evaluation.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.