U.S. closes embassies in Persian Gulf region

Thursday, March 25, 2004

ABU DHABI The United States has closed several of its embassies in the Gulf region after learning of credible terrorist threats.

Three U.S. embassies in the Gulf were closed on Wednesday to prevent attacks by insurgents or demonstrators. Two of the embassies were reopened later that day.

The U.S. embassy in the United Arab Emirates was closed after it received warning of an attack said to have been based on specific information. Officials said the information received did not include a threat against the American community in the UAE.

[In Riyad, the U.S. embassy was briefly closed in wake of a false report of a bombing in the Saudi capital, Middle East Newsline reported. The embassy was reopened that same day.]

"The embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai have temporarily suspended operation on Wednesday, March 24, in light of a specific threat to the embassy in Abu Dhabi," a U.S. embassy statement said.

Officials said the embassy, in cooperation with U.S. security officials, would review the threat over the weekend. They said the embassy could be reopened on Saturday.

In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said the embassy in Abu Dhabi was closed "in response to specific and credible threat information directed at the embassy." Ereli said a man later identified as a Somali national was arrested in connection to the threat.

Anti-U.S. unrest was also reported throughout the Gulf region. In Manama, hundreds of Bahraini teenagers pelted the U.S. embassy with stones, which led to a brief closure of the facility.

"The demonstrators approached but did not actually reach the embassy, threw rocks at the embassy," Ereli said. "The Bahraini police dispersed the crowd. Their support was excellent."

In Cairo, Egyptian authorities reinforced security around the U.S. embassy amid calls for massive demonstrations. The embassy remained opened.

Earlier, the State Department issued an alert for the Middle East and North Africa, raising the prospect of an attack against U.S. interests in the region. The alert said such an attack might be linked with an Islamic backlash in the aftermath of the Israeli assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin.

"The department is also concerned about the potential for demonstrations and violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests in the region and throughout the world in response to his death," the warning read.

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