Due to aspecific diplomatic threat, the State Department is ordering non-essential government personnel to leave the U.S. consulate in Lahore and is warning Americans not to travel to Pakistan.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The U.S. Consulate in the Pakistani city of Lahore was shut Friday following “specific threats,” but the State Department said it would reopen 18 of the 19 U.S. embassies and consulates closed this week in the Mideast after intelligence indicated a mounting al Qaeda terrorist plot.
The U.S. diplomatic post in Sanaa, Yemen will remain closed because of “ongoing concerns about a threat stream indicating the potential for terrorist attacks emanating from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” said department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, referencing the dangerous terror network affiliate.
The U.S. Consulate in Lahore remained closed Friday, with only emergency staff on site.
The threats that prompted the consulate's evacuation are different from the one that temporarily shuttered the nearly two dozen U.S. diplomatic posts in the last week, a senior State Department official said.
Most American diplomats and staff based in Pakistan's second-largest city were shifted to the embassy in Islamabad "due to specific threats," according to the State Department.
"As a precautionary measure, we are undertaking a drawdown of all except emergency personnel," U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Megan Gregonis said.
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A police officer and private security guards protect the entrance of a road leading to the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, on Friday.
She said it was unclear when the diplomatic post in Lahore would reopen.
"We will continue evaluating the threat reporting," Gregonis added.
None of the consulates in Pakistan or the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad were affected by the earlier closures, which was prompted when intelligence agencies intercepted an electronic communication between two of al Qaeda’s top leaders in which they agreed they “wanted to do something big” this past Sunday, according to sources.
The warning in Lahore, near Pakistan's border with India, comes two days after Washington evacuated some diplomats from Yemen and told its nationals to leave that country immediately.
Pakistan had already beefed up security at military buildings, airports, prisons and other sites following other recent threats. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is also due to visit the country next week.
A. Majeed / AFP - Getty Images
Images of daily life, political pursuits, religious rites and deadly violence.
The State Department's new travel alert warns that "terrorist groups continue to seek opportunities to attack locations where U.S. citizens and Westerners are known to congregate or visit."
The country has faced a bloody insurgency by the Pakistani Taliban and their allies in recent years that has killed more than 40,000 civilians and security personnel, and is also believed to be home base for al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Meanwhile, gunmen in Quetta attacked a mosque during Eid prayers on Friday, killing nine and injuring 15.
NBC News' Andrea Mitchell, Wajahat S. Khan, Catherine Chomiak and Daniel Arkin, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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This story was originally published on Fri Aug 9, 2013 4:38 AM EDT