Britons told to leave Yemen and embassy shuts after al-Qa'ida terror threat

British Embassy in Sana'a will be closed on Sunday and Monday as a 'precautionary measure'

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The Independent Online

The British Embassy in Yemen is to be closed for two days and Britons have been told to leave the country immediately amid fears of escalating violence in the country.

The Embassy in Sana'a will be closed on Sunday and Monday as a “precautionary measure”. The Foreign Office also issued new advice warning against all travel to the country, and said that any Britons who stay in Yemen are unlikely to be evacuated if unrest gets worse.

It comes as the US State Department issued a global travel alert because of a threat of possible al-Qa'ida terrorist attacks during August, particularly in the Middle East. Some 21 American embassies in the region - including Yemen - will close on Sunday. There was no immediate indication of any link between the British and US actions.

Clashes were reported today in Sana'a, where a group of soldiers who had joined a mutiny in an elite military unit tried to storm the presidential palace.

Military officials said one of the mutineers was killed and six were wounded in the fighting, and tanks and armoured vehicles were later deployed around the palace.

The attackers were reported to be part of a mutinied group of Republican Guard troops loyal to Yemen's ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In a stark warning to any Britons in Yemen, the Foreign Office said: “The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against all travel to Yemen and strongly urge British nationals to leave now. If you don't leave the country now while commercial carriers are still flying it is extremely unlikely that the British Government will be able to evacuate you or provide consular assistance.

”The situation in Yemen remains volatile with continuing unrest and violent clashes. The threat of an escalation of violence and disorder remains.

“If you travel to Yemen against our advice, you should regularly reassess your security and plan any movements around the country carefully. The provision of close security protection and/or a military escort is extremely important for those working and moving around in Yemen.

”There is a high threat from terrorism throughout Yemen. Terrorists continue to threaten further attacks. There is a very high threat of kidnap from armed tribes, criminals and terrorists.“

The FCO recommended particular vigilance during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends on August 8, when ”tensions could be heightened.“

It added: ”The British Embassy is operating with only essential staff. A further temporary draw-down of some staff has taken place due to increased security concerns. The British Embassy in Sana'a will be closed on August 4-5 as a precautionary measure.“

Announcing its worldwide travel warning to US citizens, the State Department said: ”Current information suggests that al-Qa'ida and affiliated organisations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August.“

The alert warned of ”the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure“.