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US closing embassies in Mideast for a day amid possible Qaeda threat

The US Department of State logo.
Paul J Richards | AFP | Getty Images
The US Department of State logo.

The United States is closing all of its embassies Sunday in the Middle East and parts of Asia because of a possible al-Qaeda-related threat to diplomatic posts worldwide, American officials told NBC News on Thursday.

The U.S. 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 State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

She didn't say which or how many embassies would be closed or what kind of information led to the decision, but she said the closings could be extended, "depending on our analysis."

A senior State Department official told NBC News that all embassies that are usually open in Sundays — primarily those in Muslim countries and Israel — would be closed Aug. 4 "out of an abundance of caution." Sunday is a normal workday in those countries.

The officials said the threat appeared to have originated somewhere in the Middle East and to be related to al-Qaeda. It was aimed at overseas diplomatic posts, not at facilities inside the U.S., they said.

No further details were immediately available.

Sunday is President Barack Obama's 52nd birthday, and it's also the day Iran inaugurates Hassan Rowhani as its new president. But U.S. officials told NBC News they had heard nothing to indicate that the date was chosen for either of those reasons.

— Catherine Chomiak, Charlene Gubash and Robert Windrem of NBC News contributed to this report.

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