WASHINGTON (WJZ) — U.S. embassies closed and a global travel alert issued for U.S. citizens. Now officials say it’s all because of a secret message between al-Qaeda leaders intercepted by the U.S. government.

Meghan McCorkell has more on the heightened alert.

Sources tell CBS News those al-Qaeda leaders were discussing plans for a major attack but did not mention specifics.

An intercepted secret message between al-Qaeda leaders puts the U.S. on alert. Sources say the message between al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri and Nasir-al-Wahishi, the head of al-Qaeda in Yemen, referenced “something big.”

“We believe that this threat is significant and we are taking it seriously,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

Monday, senior administration officials met to discuss the threat.

Nineteen U.S. embassies and consulates across the Middle East and North Africa are closed for the week.

“We’re going to do whatever we need to do to protect our country from these attacks,” said Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger.

Ruppersberger, a ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, says Americans everywhere need to be vigilant.

“We want people to be aware that there are al-Qaeda operatives that want to kill us, that want to attack us, whether it’s in other parts of the world or whether it’s in our homeland,” Ruppersberger said.

The State Department has issued a travel alert to U.S. citizens overseas, specifically to the Middle East, the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa.

“I really consider things a lot safer now because we know what’s happening,” said Baltimore travel agent Angela Epps.

She says U.S. citizens going abroad should take precautions.

“Be cautious. Be very careful of your surroundings and don’t travel by yourself. Travel in groups,” she said.

The State Department travel alert is issued through the end of August.

State Department officials warn Americans abroad that mass transportation systems and tourist attractions could be potential terror targets.

The U.S. did reopen several well-guarded embassies in Kabul and Baghdad Monday.


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