ABU DHABI // The US embassy in the capital and consulate in Dubai will be closed tomorrow – along with 20 others in the region – as part of a worldwide security alert.
The US state department last night issued a warning of a possible Al Qaeda attack "particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula".
The attacks, the warning stated, could occur "in the period between now and the end of August".
The state department's warning came a day after it announced that its embassies in the region would be closed on Sunday instead of reopening as normal after the weekend.
A department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, cited information indicating a threat to U.S. facilities overseas and said some diplomatic facilities may stay closed for more than a day.
A spokesman for the US embassy in Abu Dhabi confirmed the closure of the missions in the UAE.
A message on the embassy's website said they would be closed "out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installations".
"It is possible we may have additional days of closings as well, depending on our analysis."
The embassy's notice said the state department "takes steps like this to balance our continued operations with security and safety".
US embassies across the region will be affected and closures have been announced in Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Libya, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Last night, the UK government also warned its embassy staff in the Middle East to remain vigilant ahead of the Eid holiday, but said its embassies would remain open.
A spokesman for the British foreign office said the UK had updated its travel advice for the GCC and Iraq.
"US embassies have been instructed to close on Sunday, August 4. The British embassies remain open, but staff have been advised to exercise extra vigilance as we approach Eid."
The US state department is also urging Americans to take extra precautions when travelling, and a statement last night warned of "the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure".
A US official said the alert was based on the same intelligence information that prompted the embassy closures for this Sunday.
The state department issued a major warning last year informing American diplomatic facilities across the Muslim world about potential violence connected to the anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks.
Americans have been asked to avoid areas where large gatherings and demonstrations may occur, and to exercise caution if in the vicinity of any rallies or protests.
They have been referred to a worldwide caution put out by the department on February 19 this year reminding citizens to "maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness". It replaced the worldwide caution issued on July 18 last year to provide updated information on security threats and terrorist activities worldwide.
For the Middle East and North Africa, the state department said: "Credible information indicates terrorist groups also seek to continue attacks against US interests in the Middle East and Africa.
"The US government remains highly concerned about possible attacks against US citizens, facilities, businesses and perceived US and western interest."
American citizens requiring emergency assistance in Abu Dhabi should contact the embassy on 02 4142200. Those in Dubai and the Northern Emirates should contact the consulate on 04 3094000.
* With agencies