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Threats close two U.S. Asian embassies

The heavily guarded U.S. embassy in Jakarta has been the scene of many protests
The heavily guarded U.S. embassy in Jakarta has been the scene of many protests  

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- The United States is closing several Asian embassies citing what it calls "credible and specific" terrorist threats.

The U.S. Embassy in Malaysia will close on Wednesday until further notice, the second embassy in the region to close due to terrorism fears on the eve of the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta closed earlier Tuesday.

Closings have also been announced for the consulates in Surabaya, Indonesia, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and the embassies in Manama, Bahrain and Hanoi, Vietnam. All posts in Pakistan are also closed.

The closings coincide with a U.S. warning to Americans worldwide to boost security awareness on the anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. (Full story)

"Because of a credible and specific threat to the security of the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, the embassy will be closed Wednesday, September 11 to review its security posture," the embassy said in a statement, also warning all American nationals in the Southeast Asian nation.

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"American citizens are urged to be extremely cautious during the coming days," the statement said. "They should maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to reduce their vulnerability and maintain a low profile."

Extra security has been posted at the embassy.

Jakarta closing

In Indonesia, as well as closing the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, the U.S. Consulate in the eastern city of Surabaya was closed indefinitely because of a "credible terrorist threat."

A service at the Jakarta embassy commemorating the September 11 attacks has also been cancelled because of the risk of a terror attack.

U.S. State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said the government had closed the facilities in the two cities "until further notice," and is reviewing security.

"Americans should be careful and realize that there is still a threat out there," Boucher said, without commenting on the specifics of the threat.

This is the second time since the attacks on America that the embassy in the world's most populous Muslim nation has been hit by security concerns.

In October, part of the embassy was closed for two weeks amid threats by hardline Muslims that they would round up and expel all U.S. citizens.

Weak link

Indonesia is considered as one of Southeast Asia's weakest links in the war on terror and the United States has already called it a safe haven for terrorists.

In the aftermath of the attacks on America, officials in the region say Ambon in Indonesia's Maluku Islands has become the new Afghanistan for many Muslim fighters.

And while many of its Asian neighbors have cracked down on suspected terrorists, critics say Indonesia has not done enough.

Massive protests were staged in Indonesia following the U.S.-led war on terror in Afghanistan
Massive protests were staged in Indonesia following the U.S.-led war on terror in Afghanistan  

The Indonesian closures came as the U.S. State Department issued a worldwide alert to Americans as the one-year anniversary of the attacks approaches.

Citing threats of terrorist actions that may target civilians, it has cautioned Americans to be vigilant, calling on all its embassies and diplomatic posts to maintain a higher state of alert and implement appropriate security measures.

"The U.S. government has continued to receive credible indications that extremist groups and individuals are planning additional terrorist actions against U.S. interests," the announcement said.

"Such actions may be imminent and include suicide operations."

Meanwhile, CNN has learned that Philippine authorities are on "red alert" after learning an al Qaeda plot to bomb the U.S. and Israeli embassies in the capital of Manila has been activated. (Full story)

Intelligence officials say Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden, widely considered the mastermind behind the terror attacks, has turned terrorism into a franchise, focusing on Muslim separatist groups in Southeast Asia and offering them support if they merge their goals with his anti-American agenda.




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