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U.S. posts in Muslim world reopen despite murky threats

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By McClatchy Newspapers
Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013, 8:36 p.m.

CAIRO — Eighteen of the 19 U.S. embassies and consulates reopened on Sunday after being shut down for a week across the Islamic world because of a terrorist threat.

Even as the diplomatic posts inched toward normal operations, and as Muslims celebrated the end of the holy month of Ramadan, questions lingered about how pressing the danger had been and whether the threat had yet passed.

The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, the same nation from which a threat from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula this month spurred the State Department to close its facilities, remained closed.

And the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, initially among the consulates open after U.S. officials announced that an unusually high number would be closed, remained shuttered indefinitely. U.S. officials evacuated personnel there on Friday on receiving “specific threats.”

The nature of those threats or who they aimed at remains unclear. A worldwide travel warning to Americans overseas remains in place through the end of August.

Meantime, the decision last week to close the embassies and consulates dashed previous assertions by the Obama administration that the al-Qaida threat was waning.

Indeed, the closures, coupled with a dearth of details about the threat, left many across the region wondering about the status of al-Qaida and whether it is staging a comeback.

The United States has not closed a comparable number of embassies and consulates since the months following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In Yemen, some government officials are dubious about the threat posed to U.S. facilities. A Yemeni official claimed last week that the country had thwarted an al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula plot to take over cities and oil and gas installations in the eastern province of Hadramawt.

A high-ranking Yemeni security official told McClatchy that the claims of a foiled plot had no basis in fact.

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