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US pulls staff from consulate in Pakistan

Non-essential personnel ordered to leave Lahore diplomatic mission on basis of "credible threat information".

Last Modified: 09 Aug 2013 12:11
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The shift of some consulate personnel from Lahore is a precautionary measure, US officials say [AFP]

The US government has ordered all non-essential staff to leave its consulate in Pakistan's Lahore after receiving threats of attack, with the State Department also warning US citizens not to travel to the South Asian country.

Friday's announcement came as Pakistani police said assailants killed at least 10 people after opening fire outside a Sunni Muslim mosque on the outskirts of the southwestern city of Quetta.

Another blast took place in Islamabad as the country celebrated Eid, which saw a guard shoot dead a would be suicide bomber in the capital who was trying to infiltrate a Shia mosque.

"Staff have been moved to Islamabad where the US maintains a large embassy," Al Jazeera's Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from the capital, said.

"That's a sign that the US doesn't plan to shut down this [Lahore] consulate permanently."

The personnel reduction at the Lahore consulate was precautionary and unrelated to the recent closures of numerous US diplomatic missions in the Muslim world, two US officials told Associated Press news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the order.

The decision comes as Pakistan celebrates the festival of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, and a day after a suicide bomber killed 37 people at a police funeral, also in Quetta.

'Credible threat'

A senior State Department official said in a statement: "We are undertaking this drawdown due to concerns about credible threat information specific to the US consulate in Lahore."

US embassy officials said there was a "specific threat" to the consulate in Lahore and they did not know when the embassy would reopen.

 

"Threat reporting indicates terrorist groups continue to seek opportunities to attack locations where US citizens and Westerners are known to congregate or visit," the State Department wrote on its website.

Friday's measure comes two days after the evacuation of staff from the US embassy in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and a recommendation to US citizens there to leave.

The US shut nearly two dozen missions across the Middle East after a worldwide alert to its citizens last week.

It gave warning that al-Qaeda could be planning attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Lahore warning noted that "several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups pose a potential danger to US citizens throughout Pakistan". 

There have been at least 11 attacks that have killed more than 90 people during Ramadan in Pakistan.

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