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Friday December 30, 2005

US Embassy in Malaysia closed after security threat

KUALA LUMPUR: The U.S. Embassy in Malaysia was shut down Friday following an unspecified security threat, but there were no reports of danger to private American interests, the mission said. 

A consular notice sent by e-mail said the sprawling mission in Malaysia's main city, Kuala Lumpur, "was closed until further notice in response to a security threat'' against the embassy. 

"At this time the Embassy has no information of specific, credible threats against private American interests in Malaysia,'' it said. 

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Kathryn Taylor said the threat was specifically linked to the embassy and "not to American interests in Malaysia in general.'' 

She declined to give other details, including whether information on the threat had been provided by Malaysian authorities. 

"Hopefully, we'll be able to reopen on Tuesday, but that would depend on the security posture that is taken at that time,'' Taylor said, noting that the embassy was previously scheduled to close from Saturday through Monday over the New Year holiday. 

Azman Hassan, police chief of Kuala Lumpur's Cheras district, said the threat only affects the U.S. mission and "no other embassies are closed at the moment.'' 

"Police are in control of the situation,'' Azman told The Associated Press.  

"Our security is always at the highest level in that area, 24 hours a day.'' 

He also declined to give details of the threat. 

Police have increased patrols in embassy neighbourhoods after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States and installed permanent guard posts outside key locations such as the U.S. Embassy. 

Malaysia, a moderate, predominantly Muslim nation, has been used several times in the past for al-Qaida meetings, including ones in which the Sept. 11 attacks were allegedly planned. 

However, militant Islamic activity in Malaysia was crippled after scores of suspected militants were arrested between 2000 and 2002. 

In October, the U.S. Embassy was among at least a dozen diplomatic missions that received suspicious packages by mail that triggered evacuations.  

The packages contained warnings of retaliation for perceived injustices against the Muslim world but were declared hoaxes. 

In August 2004, a suspicious powder was mailed to the U.S. Embassy with a leaflet demanding U.S. troops withdrawal from Iraq. 

Police also dismissed it as a prank. - AP 

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