Threats force British embassy closures

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BRITAIN AND America have temporarily closed several embassies in Africa, fearing a repeat of the bombings which last year destroyed the US posts in Kenya and Tanzania.

The Foreign Office yesterday closed the missions in Gambia, Madagascar, Namibia and Senegal, saying it had evidence of a possible threat. "We are taking this threat seriously and have taken the precautionary measure of temporarily closing our missions in these countries," said a spokesman. On Thursday America closed its posts in the same countries and in Liberia and Togo, where Britain has no embassies.

The Foreign Office said there was no risk to Britons in the countries. "The possible threat is to diplomatic missions, not to British nationals," said the spokesman.

American intelligence officials have warned in the last week that they expect an imminent attack on US facilities. They claim to have information from telephone intercepts and other methods of planning for an attack. They blame last year's embassy bombings on Osama bin Laden, the wealthy Saudi who has called for Britain and America to leave the Gulf.

"We don't take a decision to close an embassy lightly," said State Department spokesman Jamie Rubin. "We [developed] information that suspicious individuals were known to be engaged in surveillance of certain embassies."