Miriam Burgues

The United States is preparing to close 22 of its embassies and consulates in a number of Arab countries on Sunday due to the "significant" threat of a possible terrorist attack, discovered thanks to the interception of communications among leaders of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda.

"There is a significant threat stream and we're reacting to it," the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said in an interview with ABC television that will air this Sunday, though some extracts from it have already been broadcast.

Meanwhile the State Department issued a global travel alert to U.S. citizens on Friday warning of "the continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula."

"Current information suggests that al-Qaeda 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," when the travel alert would expire, the State Department said.

According to officials cited by the CNN network, U.S. intelligence has information that al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, with headquarters in Yemen, "is in the final stages of planning an attack against U.S. and Western targets."

The same intelligence agency has been monitoring "a growing threat" against U.S. and western targets by the AQAP for several weeks.

In a video released this week on the Internet, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri again called for "every Muslim everywhere to do all that is possible to stop the crimes of the United States and its allies in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Mali and elsewhere."

He also slammed Obama for using drones in the U.S. anti-terrorist offensive in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.

French President Francois Hollande announced Saturday the closure of his country's embassy in Yemen for several days, while Britain said its embassy will remain closed on Sunday and Monday as a precautionary measure. EFE