Obama briefed on security threat
WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Barack Obama spent much of his birthday weekend away from the White House but was briefed about the terror threat that prompted embassy closings and heightened military readiness across the Middle East and North Africa.
On Sunday afternoon, he returned to Washington from the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, where he had flown Saturday afternoon after golfing with close friends earlier in the day. Obama turned 52 Sunday.
White House and national security officials met Saturday afternoon to discuss the threat, which prompted the administration to close diplomatic facilities in 22 cities, including posts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.
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The announcement came shortly after Obama met with the Yemeni president, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, and praised “the strong cooperation that they’ve offered when it comes to counterterrorism.”
Officials in that country told the U.S. about their concern that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is planning an attack there. On Friday, a White House official said the organization and others “may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August.”
“The president has directed his national security team to take all appropriate steps to protect the American people,” the official said.
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The Saturday meeting at the White House included Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was led by Obama’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, Susan Rice. The White House said the president would continue to receive updates.
Meanwhile, at the Pentagon, Hagel held high-level meetings “to take a look at what forces we have in the region” that can be used if there is an attack, a U.S. official told CNN.
Military forces in the region were ordered to a heightened state of alert earlier in the week, the official said.
Obama had no public events on his schedule for Sunday and Monday, and will hold unspecified meetings at the White House on Monday.
By Gregory Wallace
— CNN’s Jim Acosta and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.