The Department of Defense has sent military personnel into Yemen to assist with evacuating all non-essential American workers from its embassy, and assisting with security operations.
The evacuation follows an announcement last week that the U.S. would shutter embassies throughout the Muslim world for fear of an attack from al-Qaida or one of its affiliates. It now appears the source of this threat emanated from messages U.S. intelligence intercepted from Ayman al-Zawahri, considered the successor to Osama bin Laden and the leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
Yemeni security officials say the U.S. was responsible for a drone strike on Tuesday that successfully targeted a car full of four suspected al-Qaida operatives.
"In response to a request from the U.S. State Department, early this morning the U.S. Air Force transported personnel out of Sana'a, Yemen as part of a reduction in emergency personnel," said Pentagon spokesman George Little in a statement Tuesday morning. "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 State Department issued a Worldwide Travel Warning last week, and supplemented it Tuesday morning with a specific travel warning for Yemen.
"We are concerned about a threat stream indicating the potential for terrorist attacks against U.S. persons or facilities overseas, especially emanating from the Arabian Peninsula," according to the warning. "As such, the Department is taking appropriate steps to protect our employees, including local employees and visitors to our facilities."
President Barack Obama met with Yemeni President Abdrabuh Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in the Oval Office on Aug. 1. The two discussed counter terrorism initiatives among other issues, but it is unclear if this specific threat came up in their closed-door talks.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said AQAP and its affiliates will continue to plan terrorist attacks in that region and elsewhere between now and the end of August.
"The threat emanates from and may be focused on occurring in the Arabian Peninsula, but it could potentially be beyond that or elsewhere," he said at a press briefing Monday afternoon. "We cannot be more specific, which is why we've taken some of the actions we've taken and made the statements that we've made."
A team of special operations troops remains on alert to target al-Qaida in Yemen and the surrounding area, a White House official tells CNN.
Multiple Twitter users documented what appears to be a P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft over the capital Sana'a. Check out these unconfirmed tweets:
— Heather Marsh (@GeorgieBC) August 6, 2013
— Adam Baron (@adammbaron) August 6, 2013