Washington/London : The US began evacuating its nationals from Yemen amid a worldwide alert linked to electronic intercepts from Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, ordering one of the most serious attacks since 9/11. The State Department said it had pulled all non-essential personnel from Yemen, and the Pentagon said the US Air Force had flown staffers out on Tuesday.
“In response to a request from the US State Department, early this morning the US Air Force transported personnel out of Sana’a, Yemen, as part of a reduction in emergency personnel,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said in a statement.
“The US Department of Defence continues to have personnel on the ground in Yemen to support the US State Department and monitor the security situation,” CNN quoted Little as saying. The US earlier ordered reduction of embassy staff in Yemen issuing a fresh travel warning of a high security threat level. The alert came hours after a drone attack killed four Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen and two days after the closure of some two dozen embassies in the Middle East and Africa.
“The Department of State ordered a reduction in the number of emergency US Government personnel in Yemen,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement. “We are concerned about a threat stream indicating the potential for terrorist attacks against US persons or facilities overseas, especially emanating from the Arabian Peninsula,” she said. US citizens remaining in Yemen despite the travel warning in effect should limit non-essential travel within the country, she said.
In its travel warning, the Department of State warns US citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest and urged its citizens to defer travel to Yemen and those currently living in Yemen to depart immediately. “US citizens currently in Yemen should depart. As staff levels at the Embassy are restricted, our ability to assist US citizens in an emergency and provide routine consular services remains limited and may be further constrained by the fluid security situation.
Meanwhile, Britain has withdrawn all diplomatic staff from its embassy in Yemen after the US ordered its citizens to leave the country in the wake of a worldwide terror alert. “Due to increased security concerns, all staff in our Yemen embassy have been temporarily withdrawn, and the embassy will remain closed until staff are able to return,” an FCO statement said.
The British government flew the embassy staff back to the UK overnight. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) had already announced the closure of its embassy in Sanaa until the end of the festival of Eid amid a global terror alert.
British nationals had previously been advised against travel to Yemen and those in the country urged to leave immediately. Officials are describing the latest action as a “drawdown”, rather than an evacuation.