OTTAWA – Canada announced it was closing its embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Sunday, tightening security amid a widespread terrorism and travel alert triggered by the U.S.
A spokesman for Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said on Saturday the closure is a security precaution.
“We take the safety and security of our personnel and our missions overseas very seriously,” said Press Secretary Rick Roth.
“We will continue to monitor events closely and take the appropriate security measures.”
Baird had said on Friday there were no plans to close Canadian missions in the region, but he did urge diplomats and Canadian travellers to exercise added caution and said his officials would be monitoring events on the weekend.
Twenty-one U.S. embassies and consulates — from Mauritania in West Africa to as far east as Afghanistan — were closed on the weekend due to the threat of an al-Qaida terrorist attack.
It marks the first such alert since an announcement before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 strikes.
On last year’s anniversary of 9-11, a diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked leaving the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead.
The widespread security alert, set to end on Aug. 31, also included a global travel warning to American citizens.
The U.S. State Department warned of a possible attack occurring or coming from the Arabian Peninsula and cited public transportation and tourist sites among possible targets.
“Current information suggests that al-Qaida and affiliated organizations 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 department said.
U.S. officials specifically named Yemen, the home of al-Qaida’s most dangerous offshoot and the network blamed for several notable terrorist plots on the United States.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told ABC in an interview that the threat was “more specific” than previous ones and the “intent is to attack Western, not just U.S. interests.”
Britain, Germany and France announced their embassies in Yemen would be closed Sunday — a regular business day in Muslim countries — and Monday. British authorities said some embassy staff in Yemen had been withdrawn “due to security concerns.” Canada has no embassy in Yemen.
Interpol, meanwhile, issued a global security alert Saturday in connection with suspected al-Qaida involvement in several recent prison escapes including those in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan. The alert calls on Interpol’s 190 member countries to help determine whether these events are co-ordinated or linked. The Lyon, France-based international police agency said it issues such alerts fairly regularly.
_ With files from the Associated Press, ABC.