WASHINGTON -- The State Department issued a worldwide travel alert Friday because of an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist threat that had already prompted plans to close U.S. embassies in key Middle Eastern countries.
U.S. officials have noticed an increase in communications between militants in recent days, apparently related to the end of the Ramadan holiday Wednesday.
The State Department on Thursday disclosed plans to close embassies in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, Iraq and other nations on Sunday. The embassies are likely to be closed for a few days, officials said.
The State Department is charged with warning Americans when traveling conditions are unsafe, for which it issues regular alerts.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN that Al Qaeda had been linked to the threat, which he said emanated from the Middle East and Central Asia.
Spokeswoman Marie Harf said the State Department was taking the steps "out of an abundance of caution."
The department's sensitivity to such threats increased after last year's Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, which killed the U.S. ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans. Congress is now weighing increased security for U.S. facilities overseas.