Nightly News   |  August 03, 2013

Al Qaeda threat is ‘serious,’ officials say

A threat of an al Qaeda attack is “real and serious” and “we must not let our guard down,” the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has warned after a worldwide alert was issued for all U.S. citizens traveling abroad. NBC’s Kristen Welker reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> it is ominous in its tone but frustratingly thin on specifics. we're talking about the worldwide travel alert issued to americans overseas this weekend. it comes after u.s. intelligence caught wind that al qaeda may be planning an attack against american interests. the threat, we're told, is credible, but underscoring thousand difficult it is to pinpoint the target or targets, officials are taking no chances, issuing a blanket travel warning and closing american embassies across much of the muslim world tomorrow. tonight we are learning more about where those threats are coming from amidst a shifting center of power for al qaeda . covering several angles of the story, we begin with kristen welker at the white house . kristen , good evening. sfwroo good evening to you. u.s. official saz the threat could be coming from the arabian peninsula and the al qaeda affiliate based in yemen .

>> reporter: it's one of the most serious terror warnings in years. the state department has alerted americans overseas that al qaeda could be plotting an attack and they have their eyes trained on the arabian peninsula . the warning covers travel for americans worldwide, cautioning them to be vigilant at tourist sites and public transportation . in a statement the state department said terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons and target both official and private interests. the warning will stay in effect through august. general martin dempsey , chairman of the joint chiefs of staff , said the threat is specific and serious.

>> it is an al qaeda -- an affiliated threat, where he. so it is of the al qaeda branch. the intent is to attack western. not just u.s. interests.

>> reporter: in another rare move the state department has ordered the temporary closure of 22 embassies, mostly in the middle east and north africa , and including the major diplomatic posts in cairo and kabul where nbc's attia abaui filed this report.

>> reporter: the last time there was an attack it was september 2001 , and insurgents were holed up in the building behind me firing on to the embassy compound. they're not taking any chances. the embassy will be on closed tomorrow, meaning virtually no one will be allowed on or off embassy grounds.

>> reporter: u.s. officials tenbc news was identified by increased chatter by terror fwrupz and other sources of information. peter king tells us it points to yemen .

>> it's probably the most deadly of all of the affiliates of al qaeda .

>> reporter: yemen is where the so-called underwear bomber got his training, and the bomb which nearly blew up an airliner over detroit in 2009 , and where radical cleric anwar al alaki directed terror attacks before being killed two years ago in a u.s. drone strike.

>> given the time frame or these attacks may take place, that's why you are seeing the government take the action it announced.

>> reporter: britain, france, and germany are also temporarily closing their embassies in yemen . now, interpol has issued a global alert asking countries to help them track down terrorism suspects who have escaped over the past months in prison breaks in the middle east . at this point in time, though, it is not clear whether there is a connection between all of these alerts. president obama continues to get updated regularly. lester.

>> kristen welker at the white