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Homeland Security

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

ETHIOPIA: Security fears cause embassies to close

ADDIS ABABA, 5 June 2003 (IRIN) - The United States and Norway temporarily closed their embassies in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Wednesday amid security fears.

The US Embassy said in a statement: “The U.S. Embassy Consular Section will be temporarily closed to the public June 4-6, 2003.” A spokesman told IRIN that the three-day closure was for “security reasons”.

Ethiopian security forces were checking all vehicles passing the grey, fortified building on Wednesday, the entrance of which was protected by armed guards.

A spokesman for the Norwegian embassy said that it too had closed, while the British Embassy remained open. The British Council – which promotes UK cultural interests abroad - was closed so that its “security procedures” could be checked.

The move comes only a few weeks after a senior al-Qaeda lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, called on Muslims to attack the diplomatic missions of the United States, Britain, Australia and Norway. Neither the Norwegian nor the US embassy would confirm if the closures followed the call by al-Zawahiri - made in an audiotape played on Arab TV - or whether they had received specific threats.

Norway is believed to have been included on the list of potential targets because six Norwegian F-16 fighters took part in limited bombing raids in Iraq and the country's special forces are still operating in Afghanistan.

Ethiopia has been on a heightened state of alert in recent weeks following last month's bombings in Morocco and Saudi Arabia which killed a total of 63 people. US officials believe the bombings were al- Qaeda's way of showing the world that it was still active.

Federal police commissioner Workneh Gebeyehu told IRIN earlier that Ethiopia was at no greater risk than other countries, but had to remain alert. The government issued a statement calling on the country’s 67 million people to help in the fight against terrorism.

The United States, Britain, Australia, Germany, Denmark and Canada have all issued terrorism warnings for East Africa in general. Fears are mounting that the warnings could have a devastating impact on Ethiopia’s fledgling tourist industry.

Tourism generated more than US$77 million for the impoverished country last year, according to its tourism commission.

Themes: (IRIN) Conflict

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