‘Leave immediately’: US, Britain evacuate Yemen embassies

Police troopers stand guard at the entrance to the U.S. embassy in Sanaa February 11, 2015. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

Britain and the US have been forced to close their embassies in Yemen, where security hit a new low after Shiite militants took over much of the country. France has likewise announced a diplomatic withdrawal in the coming days. As the embassy closures were announced, France joined the list, announcing a closure for February 13, also on security grounds. Both the US and UK embassies evacuated their staff within hours of each other, although a gradual personnel pull-out has been on the cards since January, according to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. However, she declined to comment further on the process.  The British cite “increased risk” to their staff in Yemen. The Foreign Office says it “therefore decided to withdraw diplomatic staff and temporarily suspend the operations of the British Embassy in Sanaa.” “Our ambassador and diplomatic staff have left Yemen this morning and will return to the UK,” Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood added in the statement. He urged all British citizens still on Yemeni soil to “leave immediately.” A similar warning was issued to Americans. Both appear to be pulling out indefinitely, or “until further notice,” a process that began on Tuesday night. Psaki told journalists that the US “will explore options for a return to Sanaa when the situation on the ground improves.” Only the American forces providing security and fighting terrorism elsewhere in the country will remain, everyone in the capital will go, according to two US officials speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity. Officials are not certain how these developments will affect the wider counter-terrorism efforts against a fierce Al-Qaeda faction in Yemen. Although the US will continue its fight on that front, the Obama administration’s efforts may be harmed as they were largely based on cooperation with the former president. More