Canada shuts Bangladesh mission amid terror fears
U.S. embassies in Muslim world to close Sunday due to al-Qaeda threat
Canada is to close its high comission office in Bangladesh on Sunday amid U.S. warnings of terrorist threats against western countries in the region.
The current travel warning on the foreign affairs site, updated Saturday afternoon says: "There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Bangladesh. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to the fragile political situation. Political demonstrations, nationwide hartals (enforced strikes) and violent clashes are occurring frequently and are expected to continue. The security situation could deteriorate quickly."
Meanwhile, Britain, France and Germany are closing their embassies in Yemen on Sunday and Monday, which follows in the wake of the United States, which issued a global travel alert yesterday citing an al-Qaeda threat. That alert also caused the State Department to announce it would close its embassies this Sunday around the Muslim world.
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Interpol issued a global security alert Saturday in connection with suspected al-Qaeda 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.
Friday's U.S. advisory prompted Canada's Foreign Affairs Department to release its own warning for travellers and diplomats in the Middle East and North Africa region. The department stated that Canadians are at a reasonably "elevated risk" of attack due to the threat facing a "close friend and ally."
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is encouraging Canadian travellers and diplomats in North Africa and the Middle East to exercise added caution following the U.S. travel alert in the region.
The U.S. State Department warned American citizens on Friday of the potential for terrorism particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, with a possible attack occurring or coming from the Arabian Peninsula.
"Current information suggests that al-Qaeda 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 statement said.
The top U-S military commander says there is what he calls "a significant threat stream."
Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey says the threat was "more specific" than previous ones and that potential targets are Western, not just U.S. interests."
Avoid tourist sites
Friday's alert warned that al-Qaeda or its allies may target U.S. government or private American interests. It cited dangers involved with public transportation systems and other prime sites for tourists, noting that previous terrorist attacks have centred on subway and rail networks as well as airplanes and boats.
"U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when travelling," the department said. It recommended that Americans travelling overseas register with consular authorities on a travel registration website.
Scott Stewart, a former special agent with the U.S. State Department, told CBC News that he wouldn't suggest that people cancel their vacation plans, but he had a warning for "Westerners already living in these countries."
"I’d certainly be careful if I were a Canadian or any Westerner living [in the Middle East, North Africa or Afghanistan]," Stewart said in an interview on Friday afternoon. "I would especially stay away from hotels, these big, high-profile hotels that have been hit in the past."
The alert was posted a day after the U.S. announced it would close 21 embassies and consulates this Sunday in the Muslim world because of an unspecified threat. Spokeswoman Marie Harf said the department acted out of an "abundance of caution" and that some missions may stay closed for longer than a day.
List of embassies shut
The U.S. embassies closing their doors on Sunday are located in the following cities:
- Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
- Algiers, Algeria.
- Amman, Jordan.
- Baghdad, Iraq.
- Cairo, Egypt.
- Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
- Djibouti, Djibouti.
- Dhaka, Bangladesh.
- Doha, Qatar.
- Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
- Erbil, Iraq.
- Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
- Kabul, Afghanistan.
- Khartoum, Sudan.
- Kuwait City, Kuwait.
- Manama, Bahrain.
- Muscat, Oman.
- Nouakchott, Mauritania.
- Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
- Sanaa, Yemen.
- Tripoli, Libya.
With files from The Associated Press