The U.S. Department of State is pulling out non-emergency government workers from Yemen and calling on citizens to "leave immediately," after a high level security threat due to terrorist activities and civil unrest was reported in the Arabic country.
"U.S. citizens currently in Yemen should depart. As staff levels at the Embassy are restricted, our ability to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency and provide routine consular services remains limited and may be further constrained by the fluid security situation," the alert issued on Tuesday reads.
"The security threat level in Yemen is extremely high," the message continues, and reminds readers that the U.S. Embassy in Yemen suffered a mob attack in September 2012. It adds that demonstrations are taking place in various parts of the country and warns that they may quickly turn violent.
The message follows a U.S. Global Travel Alert on Sunday, where the U.S. shut down 22 of its embassies and consulates throughout the Middle East and North Africa, noting that Al-Qaida and affiliated organizations are believed to be planning terrorist attacks in the region and beyond.
The travel alert is expected to remain in place until the end of August. Anonymous officials shared that concern of a terrorist attack has been rising in the region but "chatter" had greatly increased in the last few days.
"A decision to close this many embassies and issue a global travel warning for a month suggests the threat is real, advanced and imminent but the intelligence is incomplete on where," said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA case officer.
The U.S. government noted in its latest alert about Yemen that Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) continues to be active in the country, and concerns are very high right now about possible attack on Americans visiting or residing there.
"A U.S. citizen was attacked and killed in Taiz on March 18, 2012 and the press reported that AQAP claimed responsibility," the alert continues.
"An ongoing risk of kidnapping exists throughout Yemen. In the last year, international and local media have reported several kidnappings of Westerners. Violent crime is also a growing problem; local media reported the murder of two U.S. citizens in Taiz and Aden in 2013."
The Department of State added that such evacuations are ordered only when there are no safe commercial alternatives, and told citizens that a lack of a valid passport may hinder their ability to depart the country.
As for Americans who remain in Yemen despite the warning, the alert advises them to limit nonessential travel and make contingency emergency plans. It also provides a number of websites and phone numbers they can reach out to for more information on staying safe.
U.S. allies like the U.K. have also responded to the alert by temporally withdrawing all embassy staff in Yemen, and advised all British citizens to leave the country as soon as possible.
The British government warned nationals that unless they leave while commercial carriers are still flying, it is "extremely unlikely" that it will be able to evacuate them or provide consular assistance.