U.S. embassies in Muslim world reopen

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CAIRO -- U.S. embassies and consulates across the Islamic world reopened Sunday after being shut down for a week because of a terrorist threat.

Even as the diplomatic posts inched toward normal operations, and as Muslims celebrated the end of the holy month of Ramadan, questions lingered about how pressing the danger had been and whether the threat had yet passed.

The U.S. embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, the same nation from which a threat from an al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula earlier this month spurred the State Department to close its facilities, remained closed.

And the U.S. consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, initially among the consulates open after U.S. officials announced that an unusually high number would be closed, remained shuttered indefinitely. U.S. officials evacuated personnel there Friday after receiving "specific threats."

The nature of those threats or who they aimed at remains unclear. A worldwide travel warning to Americans overseas remains in place through the end of August.

Meantime, the decision last week to close the embassies and consulates dashed assertions by the Obama administration just months earlier that the al-Qaida threat was waning.

Indeed, the closures, coupled with a dearth of details about the threat, left many across the region wondering about the status of al-Qaida and whether it is staging a comeback.

The United States has not closed a comparable number of embassies and consulates since the months following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In Yemen, some government officials are dubious about the threat posed to U.S. facilities. A Yemeni official claimed earlier this week that the country had thwarted an al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula plot to take over cities and oil and gas installations in the eastern province of Hadramawt.

Yet other Yemeni government spokespeople, noting that the Islamist group maintains a foothold in the province, publicly pushed back against such claims. They said that the militant group lacks the intention or capability to launch such a plot.

A high-ranking Yemeni security official speaking on the condition of anonymity told McClatchy that the claims of a foiled plot had no basis in fact. That source bemusedly attributed media reports about imminent terror strikes to a single official's comments, which he cast as a misguided attempt at shifting public opinion in the face of increasing and unpopular American drone strikes.

Indeed, Yemen has remained at a relative normal -- except for increased security measures that sent spy planes over the skies of Sanaa and flurry of apparent drone strikes to points farther afield.

The most recent drone attack killed at least two suspected militants Saturday in the southern province of Lahj.

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