Nightly News   |  August 02, 2013

Potential attack ‘very serious,’ unusually detailed threat

As of Sunday the U.S. is closing 22 embassies and consulates from Algeria to Bangladesh and the list could grow on Monday. In addition, the State Department issued a worldwide travel alert warning of the potential for terrorist attacks by al Qaeda and its affiliates. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>>> good evening. we have not seen anything like this really for a decade or more. tonight the united states has taken the unusual step of issuing a global travel warning for all of americans. because of a credible and serious terrorist threat. now if you remember the frustration and the fear during those color-coded high-threat alerts after 9/11. this is similar in the lack of specifics. we do know 22 u.s. diplomatic posts and 17 different countries will close on sunday. most of them in the muslim world . and the list of possible targets is broad. all things american. public or private including transportation systems. of specific concern here we are at the height of the summer vacation season, prime sites for tourists, especially western tourists overseas. our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell has been following this all day and starts us off from our d.c. newsroom. andrea, good evening.

>> good evening, brian. administration officials and members of congress briefed on intelligence say this is the most serious threat in years. warranting the extreme steps they're taking to close embassies and issue a worldwide travel alert for americans.

>> reporter: of particular concern targets in the middle east and north africa , not necessarily limited to those areas. the administration is not taking chances . as of sunday it is closing 22 embassies and consulates from algeria all the way east to bangladesh and cairo where nbc's aym an mohyeldin reports.

>> reporter: the embassy faces violent street protests and put up blast walls and beefed up security.

>> reporter: in kabul atia abawi.

>> this is one of the most serious warnings they have received in a very long time. security measures that will take place include restricted movement. no embassy car will be leaving the compound. as for the afghan staff they will not be coming into work.

>> reporter: and the list could grow on monday. the state department also issued a worldwide travel alert warning of potential for terrorist attacks by al qaeda , and affiliates. against both official and private interests. in the region and beyond from now until the end of august. and specifically citing past attack s against subway and rail, aviation and maritime services. most likely place for an attack, the alert possibly in the arabian peninsula and that means yemen. there have been three covert u.s. drone strikes this past week alone.

>> i thanked the president and his government and the strong cooperation they offered when it comes to counterterrorism.

>> reporter: the british are closing their embassy in yemen for two days and withdrawing personnel. members of congress were briefed by the vice president and other top officials.

>> it is a very serious threat, the most detailed specific threat i have seen in the last five to ten years.

>> when you have the actionable intelligence about a potential attack you take the steps necessary to protect personnel.

>> reporter: the house this week voted to deploy more marines and hire contractors for most vulnerable posts instead of relying on local militias who could be working with al qaeda as in benghazi last year. none of the reforms are in place yet.

>> andrea mitchell from our d.c.