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19 US missions closed amid threat

Security forces closed roads, put up extra blast walls and increased patrols on Sunday near some of 19 US diplomatic missions in the Muslim world that Washington had ordered closed for the weekend following warnings of a possible al-Qaida attack.

The closures came with a call for Americans abroad to take extra precautions throughout August, particularly when using planes, trains and boats. The countries with closure orders covered much of the Muslim and Arab world, from Mauritania in the west to Bangladesh in the east.

The State Department said 19 diplomatic posts will remain closed until Saturday "out of an abundance of caution". State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the decision to keep the embassies and consulates closed is "not an indication of a new threat".

Diplomatic facilities will remain closed until Saturday in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, among other countries.

In recent days, US officials have said they have received significant and detailed intelligence suggesting a possible attack, with some clues pointing to the al-Qaida terror network.

The State Department said the potential for terrorism was particularly acute in the Middle East and North Africa, with a possible attack occurring on or coming from the Arabian Peninsula.

"The threat was specific as to how enormous it was going to be and also that certain dates were given," Republican Pete King, who chairs a House panel on counter-terrorism and intelligence, told ABC on Sunday.

Mr King said he believes al-Qaida "is in many ways stronger than it was before 9/11 because it has mutated and it's spread in dramatically different locations". The terror network's Yemen branch, known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, "is the most deadly of all the al-Qaida affiliates", he added.

In Jordan, a counter-terrorism official said available information pointed to a potential threat to US interests in the Arabian Peninsula, specifically in Yemen, and that this prompted the temporary closure of US missions across the Muslim world. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to discuss the issue with journalists.

In Yemen's capital, Sanaa, security was beefed up Sunday around the US Embassy building and the nearby Sheraton Hotel where US Marines stay.

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