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Canada closes embassy

Tightens security in Bangladesh following U.S. terror warning

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Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird

ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird

OTTAWA -- Canada announced it was closing its embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh, today, tightening security amid a widespread terrorism and travel alert triggered by the United States.

A spokesman for Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said on Saturday the closure is a security precaution.

"We take the safety and security of our personnel and our missions overseas very seriously," said press secretary Rick Roth.

"We will continue to monitor events closely and take the appropriate security measures."

Baird had said on Friday there were no plans to close Canadian missions in the region, but he did urge diplomats and Canadian travellers to exercise added caution and said his officials would be monitoring events on the weekend.

Twenty-one U.S. embassies and consulates -- from Mauritania in West Africa to as far east as Afghanistan -- were closed on the weekend due to the threat of an al-Qaida terrorist attack.

It marks the first such alert since an announcement before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror strikes.

On last year's anniversary of 9/11, a diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked leaving the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead.

The widespread security alert, set to end on Aug. 31, also included a global travel warning to American citizens.

The U.S. State Department warned of a possible attack occurring or coming from the Arabian Peninsula and cited public transportation and tourist sites among possible targets.

"Current information suggests that al-Qaida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August," the department said.

U.S. officials specifically named Yemen, the home of al-Qaida's most dangerous offshoot and the network blamed for several notable terrorist plots on the United States.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told ABC in an interview the threat was "more specific" than previous ones and the "intent is to attack western, not just U.S. interests."

Britain, Germany and France announced their embassies in Yemen would be closed today -- a regular business day in Muslim countries -- and Monday. British authorities said some embassy staff in Yemen had been withdrawn "due to security concerns." Canada has no embassy in Yemen.

Interpol, meanwhile, issued a global security alert Saturday in connection with suspected al-Qaida involvement in several recent prison escapes, including those in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan. The alert calls on Interpol's 190 member countries to help determine whether these events are co-ordinated or linked. The Lyon, France-based international police agency said it issues such alerts fairly regularly.

The travel alert was based on unspecified intelligence information about threats. The warning came a day after the State Department order that 21 embassies and consulates close today, usually a workday in the Middle East and several other regions.

A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence, said the closures and travel warning are not related to rumours of a possible military crackdown today by the Egyptian military against protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Britain also announced its embassy in Yemen will close today and Monday, citing heightened security concerns related to the closing days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Eid holiday that follows. Ramadan ends Wednesday. Germany had already announced a similar move.

France said it plans to close its embassy in Yemen for several days beginning today, and urged French citizens to take additional precautions because of heightened security threats.

"We have elements that lead us to believe that the threat is very serious and other countries have also taken similar steps," French President Franßois Hollande said during a Saturday visit to southwestern France focused on agricultural issues, according to Reuters.

 

- The Canadian Press, Washington Post

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 4, 2013 A3

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