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US embassy in United Arab Emirates closed
Updated: 2004-03-24 16:11

The U.S. Embassy and the American consular office in the United Arab Emirates have closed temporarily because of a "specific threat" against the embassy received Wednesday morning, a U.S. spokeswoman said.

Hilary Olsin-Windecker, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi, refused to comment on the nature of the threat or how it was received.

It came two days after Israeli forces assassinated the founder of the Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip, which prompted immediate calls for revenge against Israeli and American targets. The United States expressed concern about the killing, but Washington is widely viewed in the region as able but unwilling to curb Israeli policies toward the Palestinians such as that of "targeted killings."

"The embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai have temporarily suspended operation on Wednesday, March 24, in light of a specific threat to the embassy in Abu Dhabi," Olsin-Windecker said, reading a prepared statement. She said the threat was received early Wednesday morning.

She said the security situation will be reviewed over the Thursday-Friday weekend in the Emirates, when the U.S. offices also regularly are closed, to determine whether it will reopen on Saturday.

"We have no specific threat information against the American community in the UAE," Olsin-Windecker added. However, she noted the U.S. State Department has issued new worldwide and Middle East-North Africa public cautions in light of the Israeli killing Monday of Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

She said she was unaware of any threats to other U.S. embassies in the region.

U.S. President George W. Bush expressed concern Tuesday about a Hamas threat against the United States. "We take every threat seriously in this administration," Bush told reporters in Washington.

On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department issued an alert for the Middle East and North Africa saying it is "deeply concerned about the heightened threat of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and interests abroad in the aftermath of the recent killing of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza."

"The Department is also concerned about the potential for demonstrations and violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests in the region and throughout the world in response to his death," the warning read.

It urged vigilance and specified the Persian Gulf, Arabian Peninsula, Red Sea and North Africa as areas where terror actions could target transportation and maritime interests. It said "credible information" has indicated terrorist groups may be planning attacks against American interests.

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