The State Department has evacuated nearly all of its personnel at its consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, in response to a specific terrorist threat against the facility.
U.S. officials announced the “ordered departure” in a State Department travel warning issued Thursday, and over the last several hours the diplomats have moved to Islamabad, the nation’s capital.
“The Department of State ordered this drawdown due to specific threats concerning the U.S. Consulate in Lahore,” the warning said. “The presence of several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups poses a potential danger to U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan.”
Last week’s warning and decision to close 19 embassies in the Middle East and beyond did not include diplomatic posts in Pakistan. But police have tightened security measures in the province of Punjab, where Lahore is located, CNN reported.
Pakistan is the central operating base for al Qaeda. Most of its top leaders are believed to live there, and the city of Lahore is home to Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, one of the largest and most active Islamist militant groups in South Asia.
With the cooperation of the Pakistani government, the U.S. over the last decade has brought the fight to al Qaeda in the country through drone strikes on top leaders. President Obama often touts his record of decimating al Qaeda’s core, but Pakistan remains a hotbed for the group’s leaders, as well as other affiliated extremists.
Before evacuating the Lahore consulate, the U.S. this week has focused its drone strikes on Yemen after intercepting terrorist “chatter” that suggested terrorist attacks were being hatched between the head of the global Al Qaeda network, Ayman Zawahiri, who is believed to be in Pakistan, and its Yemeni affiliate, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.