RIYADH: Citing a “credible and serious” terror threat, the US State Department has ordered several US embassies in the Middle East to shut down on Sunday.
Covered by the order are the US Embassy in Riyadh as well as the US consulates in Jeddah and Dhahran.
The State Department the diplomatic missions may possibly remain closed a few days more following Sunday.
An emergency messaged posted at the website of the US Embassy in Riyadh confirmed the closure notice and said US citizens requiring emergency assistance in Saudi Arabia should contact the nearest US mission immediately.
The emergency numbers are: US Embassy in Riyadh (011-488-3800), US Consulate General in Jeddah (02-667-0080), or US Consulate General in Dhahran (03-330-3200).
“The State Department, when conditions warrant, takes steps like this to balance our continued operations with security and safety,” said the embassy’s statement. “However, beyond this announcement we do not discuss specific threat information, security considerations or measures, or other steps we may be taking,” it said.
As a matter of general practice, US citizens should avoid areas where large gatherings may occur. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence, warned the statement. “You should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations,” it advised. It also asked the American citizens in the Kingdom and the Middle East to review your personal security plans; remain aware of one’s surroundings, including local events; and monitor local news stations for updates.
The statement called on the US citizens to maintain a high level of vigilance, take appropriate steps to enhance personal security and follow instructions of local authorities.
“We strongly recommend that US citizens traveling to or residing in Saudi Arabia enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP),” said the embassy.
The STEP enrollment gives the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the US embassy or nearest US consulate to contact its people in an emergency.
A US official not authorized to speak publicly on the matter called the threat “credible and serious.” It was “directed at American targets overseas,” but may not be confined to main diplomatic facilities, the official said.
In addition to Saudi Arabia, the State Department action includes Egypt, Israel, Libya,
Iraq and Kuwait. A senior State Department official said the agency has told those embassies that normally would be beginning the work week on Sunday to close, but additional days could be added.
Diplomatic facilities in the region are for the most part closed or operate with minimal staff on Fridays and Saturdays. Separately, another US official told CNN that the Obama administration is monitoring threats against the embassy in Sanaa, Yemen. The official did not say whether the embassy would close.Officials said the time frame comes with the approaching end of Ramadan and the one-year anniversary of the terror attack on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

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