World on edge: security alerts heighten tension

10.08.2013 03:54

A little on edge, are we?
With Al Qaeda and terrorism seemingly on
every front page this week, frayed nerves
across the globe have prompted security
alerts from Philadelphia to Paris to Pakistan –
some warranted, others not so much.
You can probably attribute it to nearly two
dozen American embassies or missions
suddenly, and with little explanation, rolling
up the shutters and telling everyone to go
home Aug. 4.
Authorities in the United States reportedly
intercepted phone conversations between
high-ranking Al Qaeda leaders. They
purported an attack on an embassy, but it
wasn’t clear where, so missions in the Middle
East and North Africa closed. Nearly all of
Embassy Evacuations
GlobalPost contributor Mac Deford, a retired
Foreign Service officer, summed up our
amplified paranoia nicely with a simple
“Nearly 12 years after 9/11, two wars, tragic
losses of life, trillions of dollars, an Arab
world with waning American influence, airport
security still driving travelers mad, citizens’
phone calls copied and stored for posterity,
and now a score of US diplomatic posts
closed by Al Qaeda threats: if the battle is Al
Qaeda versus the US, who’s winning?”
The thought of a rejuvenated, and
presumably nastier, Al Qaeda still operating
around the world, we have the
aforementioned alarm bells ringing.
Here’s a list of recent security warnings, both
real and imagined, from across the globe. Let
us know if we missed any:
Prison Breaks
Even before the embassies closed, Interpol
issued a dire warning that said hundreds of
Al Qaeda operatives are likely walking the
streets again after a massive prison break in
Iraq on July 21. They followed that
announcement a few days later by adding
Libya and Pakistan to the list of countries
with missing prisoners.
Forget Afghanistan and Iraq, evidently Yemen
is the new center of terrorism. That’s if you
believe what the State Department is saying,
and where drones are exploding with
increasing regularity. Security experts say Al
Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an offshoot
of Osama bin Laden’s horrible brainchild, is
the among the most violent and active
terrorist cells in the world.
A military aircraft flew American embassy
officials from Yemen to Germany this week
because of a “high risk” situation . One half
of that intercepted phone conversation – the
one that prompted widespread embassy
closures – took place in Yemen. The other
end of the phone was reportedly in …
Saying there’s a credible, specific threat to
its mission in Lahore, Americans working in
that city moved to the capital Islamabad for
Americans were told to delay non-essential
travel to Pakistan, and those already there
were told to limit their movements inside the
country. To make you feel worse is news that
closing offices there is NOT related to earlier
warnings that prompted closures of Middle
Eastern and African embassies. Not that
Islamabad is much safer, with that city under
high alert because Pakistani intelligence
learning of threats to parliament and the
Israel is also taking precautions and on
Thursday closed an airport in the southern
resort city of Eilat.
It was intelligence from Egypt that was said
to prompt the move, with authorities there
suggesting terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula
have missiles pointed at Israel. Egyptian
security forces said they captured 100
suspected terrorists in Sinai this week.
After Lebanese militants kidnapped two of its
airline pilots on Friday, Turkey warned its
citizens to leave Lebanon. Turkey borders
Syria, and the kidnappers said they would
trade the Turkish Airline pilots for nine
Lebanese hostages in Syria, BBC said . Turkey
is sympathetic to Syrian Sunni rebels, while
Lebanon backs Assad’s Shia majority.
No stranger to bomb threats, the widely
popular Eiffel Tower closed for two hours on
Friday as police investigated a scare that
wasn’t there. Reuters said 7 million people
visit the 1,000-foot tower every year, with as
many as 30,000 each day during the tourist
season. It closes twice a year because of
threats, Reuters said, and it’s unclear what
prompted this most recent evacuation.
US Airways flight 777 from Dublin to
Pittsburgh made an emergency landing in
Philadelphia this week because of a phoned-
in threat. It was an “ abundance of caution”
that the flight diverted, and the threat
proved unfounded.
A bomb squad converged on a federal
building in the Emerald City on Friday
because someone left a suspicious package
on a drinking fountain . There was no bomb,
and not even any white powder.