Wednesday, September 15, 2010

AMMAN (Reuters) – The U.S. embassy in Jordan warned its citizens on Wednesday against traveling to the port city of Aqaba, citing an “imminent” threat.

The U.S. warning published at says “credible information has been received regarding a possible imminent threat in the Gulf of Aqaba region.”

“The U.S. Embassy recommends that all non-official and personal travel to Aqaba be deferred for at least the next 48 hours,” the statement said without elaborating.

Last month, the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv told U.S. citizens traveling to the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat that they needed to know where the nearest bomb shelter was.

The warning angered the Israeli government which said that the alert should apply to next door Aqaba.

There was no immediate official Jordanian reaction.

Diplomats say the latest travel advisory was prompted by heightened security concerns after rockets from Egypt’s Sinai, where Islamist militants have operated in the past, hit Israel‘s and Jordan’s Red Sea ports on August 2, killing a Jordanian civilian and injuring three others.

Following the rocket attacks, the U.S. embassy said it was “unaware of any additional threats to U.S. citizens resulting from the incident but would continue to monitor the situation.”

Al Qaeda has been active in Jordan and has carried out attacks there in the past.

In April 2005, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades militant group linked to al Qaeda claimed responsibility for a failed attempt to strike two U.S. warships in Aqaba with rockets. The rockets hit a warehouse and a hospital, killing one Jordanian soldier.

The attack which narrowly missed the USS Ashland and its sister ship the USS Kearsarge was the most serious on U.S. targets in the staunchly pro-Western kingdom since the killing of U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley in Amman in 2002.

Jordanian militants linked to al Qaeda have been blamed for several plots in recent years to attack Western targets and government installations in the kingdom.

Jordan’s close U.S. ties and its 1994 peace accord with Israel are unpopular with many in the conservative kingdom and there is strong support for Islamist militants in some areas.

(Writing by Suleiman al-Khalidi; Editing by Peter Graff)