WASHINGTON — The U.S. embassies in Bulgaria and Romania were closed to the public Thursday after they received information about possible terrorist attacks, the State Department announced.
"There is information about possible threats against these embassies that made them . . . close for public operations while they reviewed the status of their security posture," department spokesman Richard Boucher said. He would not say when they would reopen. Most recent embassy closures have lasted a day or two.
Diplomatic officials hinted that the threat was related to events in the Middle East, but they provided few details. U.S. support for Israel is the most frequently cited reason for terrorist threats against American diplomatic missions and business interests.
"The folks that make threats watch very closely our reaction," said one official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named. The government, he said, does not want to provide any specific information that might help would-be terrorists carry out threats.
"You get a continuous stream of information relating to threats," the official added. "We take any threat seriously," although closures are usually ordered only when the threats appear credible.
Boucher noted that on June 22, the State Department authorized embassies and consulates worldwide to suspend operations in response to threats or to review their security operations.
That directive specifically cited the activities of Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden, who has been accused of planning the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. But Boucher said the threats to the missions in Sofia, Bulgaria, and Bucharest, Romania, were not necessarily related to Bin Laden.
Boucher said diplomats in both embassies "are working with the local authorities, and I think they're getting excellent support." In Bucharest, television station Antenna 1 reported that Romanian intelligence services sent dozens of security troops to the embassy area.
Security closures of U.S. embassies have been relatively common in recent years. The majority have occurred in Africa and the Middle East.
"American citizens who need emergency services [in Bulgaria or Romania] can phone these embassies and get through to people who can help them," Boucher said.
"Each post will look at its security posture and reopen at an appropriate time," he added. "I can't speculate at this moment on when that might be."