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US citizens flee Yemen

Travellers walk to the departure lounge at Sanaa International AirportSANAA — The United States told its citizens in Yemen today to leave immediately and airlifted out some US government personnel, following warnings of potential attacks that have pushed Washington to shut diplomatic missions across the Middle East.

The poorest Arab country, Yemen is the base for one of the most active branches of the al Qaeda network founded by Osama bin Laden, and militants have launched attacks from there against the West.

It is one of a handful of countries where Washington acknowledges targeting militants with strikes by drone aircraft.

In the latest strike on Tuesday, a US drone fired five missiles at a car travelling in the central Maarib province killing all four of its occupants, local tribal leaders said. Yemen’s state news agency Saba said four al Qaeda militants were killed in the attack.

The US State Department’s announcement urging Americans to leave the country follows a worldwide travel alert last Friday which prompted Washington to shut diplomatic missions across the Middle East and Africa. Some of its European allies have also closed their embassies in Yemen.

“The department urges US citizens to defer travel to Yemen and those US citizens currently living in Yemen to depart immediately,” the statement posted on its website said.

“On August 6, 2013, the Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency US government personnel from Yemen due to the continued potential for terrorist attacks,” it added.

Britain also said today it had withdrawn all staff from its embassy in the capital Sanaa, adding there was “a very high threat of kidnap from armed tribes, criminal and terrorists”.

In a statement issued in Washington, Pentagon spokesman George Little said the US Air Force “transported personnel out of Sanaa, Yemen, as part of a reduction in emergency personnel” in response to a request by the State Department.

He did not specify which types of personnel were involved or where they were taken. (Reuters)

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