U.S. Embassy in Sudan to close temporarily
Follows attack and prior warnings in Saudi Arabia
From Elise Labott
CNN Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, will be closed through the week because of a threat about a possible al Qaeda attack against American interests in the country, two senior State Department officials told CNN Monday.
According to a State Department message that officials said was sent to U.S. citizens in Sudan, "This action is the result of a threat to U.S. interests in Khartoum. The embassy hopes to resume normal operations next week."
The embassy already was scheduled to be closed on Tuesday for the Veterans Day holiday, and it will remain closed while embassy officials review their security situation at the embassy and decide what extra precautions need to be taken, officials said.
"There are indications they [operatives of al Qaeda] are planning for an attack," one senior official said, but added that the U.S. wasn't sure if the planning had reached the "operational stage" yet. This official said the type of attack thought to be in the offing was unclear.
He added that the embassy was getting "excellent security support" from Sudanese authorities.
U.S. officials have previously warned of possible terrorist activities targeting U.S. interests in northern Africa.
And the threat comes on the heels of a terrorist attack Saturday against an expatriate housing compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which followed a week of warnings by the State Department about a possible threat there.
The senior official said there was no indication that Saturday's attacks are related to the threat in Khartoum, but said, "There is a concern about the potential for al Qaeda attacks" in both countries.
The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum was closed in 1996 and re-opened about a year ago because of ongoing Sudanese support in U.S. efforts against terror and the emergence of peace talks between the Khartoum government and the country's southern rebels. The embassy is run by a charge d'affaires.
Although officials did not want to say what the specific target of the Khartoum threat was, one senior official said, "We only close our embassies if it is not safe to be there."
The message urges all Americans in Sudan to "maintain a low profile, and to avoid large gatherings of foreigners which may attract attention.
"There are no consular officers resident in Sudan," the advisory said. "Although a U.S. consular officer makes periodic visits to Sudan, the officer's ability to provide consular services, including emergency assistance, is severely limited."