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US orders citizens to leave Yemen immediately

US military forces in the Middle East region have been on a higher state of alert for the past several days.

The southern city of Taiz in Yemen. Picture: AFP

SANAA - The United States told its citizens in Yemen on Tuesday to leave the country immediately due to the threat of "terrorist attacks", the US State Department said in a statement.

The State Department also said it had ordered non-essential US government staff in Yemen to leave the country.

The new measures followed a heightened security warning from Washington on Friday that prompted the closure of several Western embassies in Yemen and several US missions across the Middle East and Africa.

It also came after at least four suspected al Qaeda members were killed in what local tribal leaders said was a US drone strike in central Yemen early on Tuesday.

"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.

TAKING PRECAUTION

The United States on Monday extended embassy closures by a week in the Middle East and Africa as a precaution on Sunday after an al Qaeda threat that US lawmakers said was the most serious in years.

The State Department said 19 US embassies and consulates would be closed through Saturday "out of an abundance of caution" and that a number of them would have been closed anyway for most of the week due to the Eid celebration at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The United States initially closed 21 US diplomatic posts for the day on Sunday. Some of those will reopen on Monday, including Kabul, Baghdad and Algiers.

Four new diplomatic posts - in Madagascar, Burundi, Rwanda and Mauritius - were added to the closure list for the week.

Last week, the State Department issued a worldwide travel alert warning Americans that al Qaeda may be planning attacks in August, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.

Britain and France reportedly heeded US's call and followed suit by extending the closure of their embassies in Yemen on Monday after a US warning of a possible militant attack in the region, and the Arab state said it was stepping up security at ports and airports.