Fresh intelligence led the United States to conclude that operatives of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were in the final stages of planning an attack against US and Western targets, several American officials told CNN Saturday.
The warning led the US State Department to issue a global travel alert Friday, warning al-Qaeda may launch attacks in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond in coming weeks. The US government also was preparing to temporarily close 22 embassies and consulates in the region Sunday as a precaution.
The chatter among al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operatives had gone on for weeks but increased in the last few days, the officials told CNN.
The sources told CNN that while the specific target is uncertain, US officials are deeply worried about a possible attack against the US Embassy in Yemen occurring through Tuesday.
CNN reported that the warnings also come as news has surfaced that al-Qaeda's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has appointed the head of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Nasser al-Wahishi, as his overall general manager of the terror network, Seth Jones of the Rand Corporation said.
Interpol issued a global security alert on Saturday advising its members to increase their vigilance against attacks after a series of prison breaks in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan that the agency is investigating to determine if they were linked.
The Lyon, France-based Interpol said given that al-Qaeda was suspected to be involved in some of the incidents, it was asking its 190 member countries to watch out for information connected to the prison breaks, with an aim to determine whether they were coordinated and also locate the escaped prisoners.
Britain said it would close its embassy in Yemen on Sunday and Monday. "We are particularly concerned about the security situation in the final days of Ramadan and into Eid," the Foreign Office said in a statement, referring to the Muslim holy month which ends on Wednesday.
France also plans to close its embassy in Yemen on Sunday, a spokesman for the foreign ministry said.
Prison breaks took place in Pakistan on July 31 in a Taliban-led operation, and in Iraq at the Abu Ghraib prison overnight on July 22. Some 500 convicts, among them senior al-Qaeda operatives, escaped from Abu Ghraib.
More than 1,100 inmates broke out of a prison on the outskirts of Benghazi on July 27.
Interpol also noted that August was the anniversary of several violent attacks over the past years, including in Mumbai and Nairobi.
Concerns became more amplified following a speech given by al-Zawahiri, who made a call to specifically target US destinations.
"There's a real threat and we're responding to it," said US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, in an interview to ABC.
He said that the threat is more "specific" than previous threats, and while it's unclear which action the terrorist will take exactly, their intent—to target all Western and not only US destinations—is clear.