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Al Qaida without Bin Laden can still disrupt life.

Dubai: After intercepting what it says is a credible Al Qaida threat of an attack on some of its embassies in the Middle East and North Africa, the United States will keep some of its embassies in the region closed until the end of the week as a precaution.

The US closed 22 diplomatic posts on Sunday in response to intelligence gathered from the phones and e-mails of terrorist suspects, and it feels it has enough reason to keep some of the embassies and consulates closed until after the Eid weekend.

This dramatic State Department reaction to the threat followed the events in Libya a year ago, when a warning was largely ignored and an attack led to the death of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

A political row has been rumbling through the partisan American Congress and Senate, as Republicans have tried to blame the Democrat administration and the State Department, including then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for incompetence over how they handled that threat.

Al Qaida may have lost its leader when US forces killed Osama Bin Laden, but hundreds of acolytes still in the field will ensure that it remains a force that will be able to offer asymmetric threats of violence which will have political impact well beyond their immediate effect.

Source for satisfaction

As commentator Con Cloughlin writes in the Daily Telegraph, "For an organisation that is said to be in terminal decline, Al Qaida will draw immense satisfaction from the events of this past weekend, when it demonstrated its ability to disrupt the work of Western governments by forcing the temporary closure of dozens of diplomatic missions throughout the Arab world."

This week, the threat was discovered by US surveillance of Al Qaida communication, but it could also be contained in a direct message e-mailed to a newspaper or TV station, or even an embassy. However, it was found, it would be a foolhardy public official who ignored such a threat, particularly if an act of terrorism then later claims lives.

Therefore, the US is unrepentant about being manipulated by the Al Qaida announcement. "Out of an abundance of caution, we've decided to extend the closure of several embassies and consulates, including a small number of additional posts," said Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman. This is "merely an indication of our commitment to exercise caution."

The State Department view was backed by Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, who is the top Republican on the Senate's Intelligence Committee, and told NBC's aACAyMeet the Press' programme that "this is the most serious threat that I've seen in the last several years".

No one has disclosed the details of the current threat which is still far from over as the fear is that terrorists may try to use the occasion of Eid Al Fitr over the next few days at the end of Ramadan to perpetrate some horror.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Aug 6, 2013
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