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US keeps Lahore mission closed

Updated August 12, 2013

WASHINGTON, Aug 11: The United States on Sunday reopened 18 of the 19 diplomatic posts it had closed last week but said the consulate in Lahore and the embassy in Yemen were not being opened yet.

All 19 diplomatic missions were closed due to an unspecified terrorist threat which also caused the US State Department to issue a worldwide travel alert for its citizens.

“Our consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, which closed on Aug 8 due to a separate credible threat to that facility, will … remain closed,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The US embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, will also remain closed because of on-going concerns about a threat stream indicating the potential for terrorist attacks emanating from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, she said. “We will continue to evaluate the threats to Sanaa and Lahore and make subsequent decisions about the reopening of those facilities based on that information,” Ms Psaki said.

Reports in the US media linked the decision to keep the Lahore consulate closed to the overall situation in Pakistan. They noted that on Thursday a suicide bomber killed nearly half of the top police commanders in Balochistan at a funeral in Quetta. The claim of responsibility called it revenge for a recent crackdown on Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group. On Aug 6, an army colonel, a captain and a senior superintendent of police were killed in Chilas, apparently by the same group responsible for the bombing in Quetta. They were investigating the June 23 killing of nine foreign tourists and one of their Pakistani guides in the Northern Areas, also by the same group.

The US media reported that Lashkar-i-Jhangvi is now helping Al Qaeda and other militant groups in relocating from the tribal belt to other remote areas in Pakistan.

The reports noted that Pakistan has recently increased its military operations in Fata while the United States also has continued its drone strikes despite Islamabad’s protests.

The militants felt that it had become increasingly difficult for them to operate from Fata and that was why they were trying to relocate at least some of their personnel to other areas, the reports added.

Diplomatic sources in Washington said that such developments had also forced the United States to re-evaluate security arrangements for its diplomatic posts in Pakistan.

While evacuating non-emergency US government personnel from Lahore last week, the State Department also warned Americans to defer all non-essential travel to Pakistan.

“The presence of several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups poses a potential danger to US citizens throughout Pakistan,” the travel warning said.