The U.S. remains on high alert Wednesday of a potential terrorist attack in the Arabian Peninsula, despite an announcement by authorities in Yemen that it had thwarted a terror attack on its oil infrastructure and port cities.
Earlier this week, the U.S. began withdrawing American citizens and embassy workers from Yemen following the intercepted al-Qaeda message between the terrorist organization's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and operatives in Yemen telling them to do "something big." Additionally, the U.S. closed embassies in the Middle Eastern country, citing an "extremely high" terror threat level, and issued a worldwide travel alert in the Middle East and parts of North Africa. The U.K. and France also removed their embassy personnel from Yemen.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed Wednesday that the U.S. Embassies in Yemen will remain closed "because we believe that a threat remains."
Yemen authorities also released a statement Wednesday claiming to have thwarted an al-Qaeda plot to attack the country's major oil pipelines and seize major southern port cities.
"There were attempts to control key cities in Yemen like Mukala and Bawzeer," Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Abu-Bakr Al-Qirbi confirmed to BBC News. "This would be coordinated with attacks by al Qaeda members on the gas facilities in Shebwa city and the blowing up of the gas pipe in Belhaf city."
A Yemen government official told CNN anonymously that the alleged foiling of the al-Qaeda attack on oil infrastructure may in fact differ from the plot discussed by al-Zawahiri and al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen. The source told CNN that the threats to oil infrastructure are ongoing and are not specifically linked to the latest al-Qaeda threat.
"These are ongoing threats to oil and gas installations in Yemen, and there's nothing specific linking these threats to the latest [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] threat in Yemen," the source told CNN.
"[al-Qaeda Arabian Peninsula] has neither the manpower nor the capabilities to capture ports or seize pipelines," the official continued. "Security precautions are always in place regarding all oil installations and energy infrastructure in Yemen."
Pentagon spokesperson George Little told CBS News that the U.S. Air Force had dispatched two military transport aircrafts to the southern city of Sannaa to evacuate emergency embassy personnel on Tuesday, although some Department of Defense personnel remained in the country to monitor the security situation.
Yemen has also set up strict security in the country's south following its announcement of the plot foil, including deploying government tanks and troops to guard its airports and oil reserves, concentrating its focus on Sanaa, the capital of Yemen. Additionally, the country announced Wednesday that six suspected militants had been killed in a strike on two vehicles in the south of the country. The U.S. has declined to comment on those reports.