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U.S. tightens embassy security in Lebanon and Turkey, warns Americans

US President Barrack Obama

US President Barrack Obama

The United States tightened security at diplomatic missions in Lebanon and Turkey on Friday because of threats, ordering personnel out of Lebanon and offering to evacuate those in Adana in southeastern Turkey.

The State Department also warned U.S. citizens against traveling in Lebanon and southeastern Turkey and urged Americans in the rest of Turkey “to be alert to the potential for violence.”

Officials did not offer specifics about the threats, which were revealed less than a week before the 12th anniversary of the September 11 attacks and amid an intensifying U.S. debate over President Barack Obama’s plans to strike Syria.

“Given the current tensions the region, as well as potential threats to U.S. government facilities and personnel, we are taking these steps out of an abundance of caution to protect our employees and their families, and local employees and visitors to our facilities,” said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

The statements did not mention Syria, where Washington says troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad carried out a poison gas attack that killed more than 1,400 people in rebel-held suburbs of Damascus on August 21.

Obama has asked the U.S. Congress to back his plan for limited strikes in response to the chemical weapons attack.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday the United States had intercepted an order from an Iranian official instructing militants in Iraq to attack U.S. interests in Baghdad in the event the United States launches a military strike in Syria, a close ally of Iran.

The American embassy in Baghdad was a likely target, according to unnamed U.S. officials quoted by the newspaper. The State Department and the CIA declined to comment on the report.

In Lebanon, officials ordered non-emergency personnel and their family members out of the country “due to threats,” the U.S. Embassy in Beirut said in statement.

The State Department urged “U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon because of current safety and security concerns.”

In Turkey, U.S. officials offered voluntary evacuation to reduce its diplomatic presence at the consulate in Adana, Turkey, “because of threats against U.S. government facilities and personnel.” Adana is near the border with Syria.

“The Consulate General in Adana has been authorized to draw down its non-emergency staff and family members,” the State Department said in a statement.

It also recommended “that U.S. citizens defer non-essential travel to southeastern Turkey.”

Americans who remain in Lebanon or southeastern Turkey should remain vigilant and make their own emergency plans, officials said.

Early last month, nearly 20 U.S. embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Africa were closed when the United States said it had picked up unspecified terrorism threats. The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, was closed for more than two weeks.

In April 1983, Iranian-backed Islamists blew up the U.S. embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people. In October of that year, Shi’ite Muslim suicide bombers linked to Tehran blew up the U.S. Marine and French barracks in Beirut, killing 241 Marines and 58 French paratroopers.

On September 11, 2012, an attack on U.S. diplomatic posts in the Libyan city of Benghazi killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.


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