US evacuates government personnel from Yemen
posted at 8:01 am on August 6, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
The US government issues a travel alert that warned all Americans to leave Yemen immediately, as part of a heightened security status that has 19 embassies in the region closed. As a follow-up, the Air Force evacuated US government personnel from the country — shortly after a drone strike killed four suspected members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula:
U.S. government personnel were flown out of Yemen on an Air Force plane Tuesday as the State Department urged all Americans in the country to leave “immediately” because of an “extremely high” threat of a terrorist attack.
The warning came just hours after a drone strike killed at least four suspected al Qaeda members in the country.
A total of 19 U.S. embassies remained closed Tuesday after intelligence agencies intercepted an electronic communication between two of al Qaeda’s top leaders in which they agreed they “wanted to do something big” this past Sunday, according to sources. …
In a statement Tuesday, the State Department said there was a “high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest.”
“The department urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen and those U.S. citizens currently living in Yemen to depart immediately,” it said.
The drone strike is part of a recent offensive in Yemen by the US, in apparent cooperation with the government in Sana’a. Four drone strikes in ten days have taken aim at AQAP, but the results are perhaps not as extensive as hoped:
Security sources told CNN about the strikes but didn’t offer additional details. A Yemeni official said four drone strikes have been carried out in the past 10 days.
None of those killed on Tuesday were among the 25 names on the country’s most-wanted list, security officials said.
It is unclear whether the strikes were related to the added security alert in the country after U.S. officials intercepted a message from al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to operatives in Yemen telling them to “do something.” The message was sent to Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terror group’s Yemeni affiliate. U.S. intelligence believes al-Wuhayshi has recently been appointed the overall terror organization’s No. 2 leader.
Why the rush to hightail it out of Yemen now? A massive prison break a week ago in Pakistan and another a week earlier in Iraq may have something to do with it, CNN reported last night. In fact, there have been eleven jail breaks in 25 days, and now more than a thousand suspected AQ terrorists have gone missing:
First the attackers blew up bombs outside a Pakistani prison. Then they scared off people in the area and used loudspeakers to call out specific inmates they were trying to release. Shiite prisoners left inside were killed.
“It was a well-planned assault,” noted CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen, who provided details Monday of the July 30 prison break in northwest Pakistan.
Other similar operations in the past two weeks in Iraq and Libya successfully freed hundreds of convicted or suspected Islamic terrorists, a known strategy of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Bergen and other analysts cited the prison breaks as one of several reasons the United States has dramatically heightened its security stance by issuing a worldwide travel alert and closing almost two dozen embassies and consulates on Sunday, with 19 of them remaining shut for the rest of the week.
Note well that “hundreds” of the missing terrorists got sprung from a prison in … Benghazi. Before we decapitated the Qaddafi regime, AQ couldn’t access those prisoners. Now we can’t access Benghazi, and we’re closing embassies all over the region thanks to the threat unleashed in the vacuum of control in eastern Libya. This must be what’s known as smart power.