An intercepted message among senior al Qaeda operatives in the last several days raised alarm bells that led to the closing of embassies and consulates Sunday across the Middle East and North Africa.
Several U.S. officials also emphasized they have been watching growing threats emerging from Yemen for weeks.
Those threats, combined with the coming end of the month of Ramadan, plus the concern over several major prison breaks in the region, all contributed to the U.S. decision to shut down diplomatic installations.
Officials shuttered 22 US embassies and consulates for the day on Sunday amid fears of an al Qaeda attack. On Sunday afternoon, the State Department said it had extended embassy and consulate closures in 15 of the locations until Friday and added four other posts to the list.
“This is not an indication of a new threat stream,” the State Department said, “merely an indication of our commitment to exercise caution and take appropriate steps to protect our employees, including local employees, and visitors to our facilities.”