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US Warns Al-Qaida Could Strike Embassies, Other Targets

Security personnel stand in front of the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, August 2, 2013.
The United States is warning its citizens traveling abroad to watch out for potential terror attacks, especially in North Africa and the Middle East.

The new travel alert from the U.S. State Department is based on intelligence suggesting al-Qaida or affiliated groups may be plotting attacks on official U.S. targets and American businesses, or any other places where Americans gather.

This alert is in effect for the entire month of August, and it follows the announcement that more than 20 U.S. embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Africa will close on Sunday.

A senior State Department official says these are all American diplomatic offices that normally would be open for business on Sunday. The list includes embassies in Abu Dhabi, Baghdad and Cairo.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf:

"The Department has been apprised of information that, out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installations that indicates we should institute these precautionary steps," said Harf.

Harf, speaking on Thursday, said more closings are not out of the question.

"It is possible we may have additional days of closing as well. Of course, depending on our analysis, individual U.S. embassies and consulates will announce whether or not they are open and whether they are implementing restrictions or other measures," she said.

The State Department is urging Americans in other countries - especially those in the Middle East or North Africa - to take every precaution, “to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures.”

U.S. embassies and missions have come under attack before, most recently the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, where the ambassador and three other Americans were killed last September.

Recent terror attacks by al-Qaida-linked groups have included a wave of car bombings that killed dozens of people in Iraq.