Americans Urged to Leave Yemen as U.S. Military Evacuates Embassy Staff

Mike O'Brien

The State Department on Tuesday ordered most embassy staff out of Yemen and urged all U.S. citizens there to leave the country.

In the wake of the al Qaeda threat that led to the closure of 19 American diplomatic posts, the U.S. Air Force already has flown State Department personnel out of the capital of Sanaa.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said: "The U.S. Department of Defense continues to have personnel on the ground in Yemen to support the U.S. State Department and monitor the security situation."

The evacuations came as two U.S. drone strikes killed four suspected al Qaeda militants in the Yemeni province of Mareb.

In a travel warning the State Department said it had ordered the personnel departures "due to the continued potential for terrorist attacks," adding that all Americans in Yemen should leave immediately because of an "extremely high" security threat level.

The warning continued: "As staff levels at the Embassy are restricted, our ability to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency and provide routine consular services remains limited and may be further constrained by the fluid security situation."

A Yemeni government official said on Monday that the embassy was "heavily fortified," adding: "You would need a small army to penetrate the post." He said the Yemeni government was taking "all necessary precautions to secure diplomatic facilities, vital installations and strategic assets."

Intelligence officials also fear that Al Qaeda could target the Red Sea corridor, a major route for international shipping.