WASHINGTON — Amid online "chatter" about terror threats, U.S. diplomatic posts in 19 cities in the Muslim world will be closed at least through the end of this week, the State Department said.
Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the decision to keep the embassies and consulates shuttered is a sign of an "abundance of caution" and is "not an indication of a new threat."
Lawmakers, though, said the intercepted chatter suggested that a major terrorist attack was in the planning stages. One lawmaker said the chatter was specific as to certain dates and the scope of the operation.
Psaki said the continued closures are "merely an indication of our commitment to exercise caution and take appropriate steps to protect our employees, including local employees, and visitors to our facilities."
Diplomatic facilities will remain closed in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, among other countries, through Saturday, Aug. 10. The State Department announcement Sunday added closures of four African sites, in Madagascar, Burundi, Rwanda and Mauritius.
The U.S. has also decided to reopen some posts on Monday, including those in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Baghdad.
The Obama administration announced Friday that the posts would be closed over the weekend and the State Department announced a global travel alert, warning that al-Qaida or its allies might target either U.S. government or private American interests.
The intercepted intelligence foreshadowing an attack on U.S. or Western interests is evidence of one of the gravest threats to the United States since 9/11, according to several lawmakers who made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows.
"This is the most serious threat that I've seen in the last several years," Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia told NBC's "Meet the Press Sunday. "Chatter means conversation among terrorists about the planning that's going on — very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11."