By MATTHEW LEE, AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department on Thursday ordered the families of U.S. embassy staffers in the Nigerian capital to leave due to heightened fears of a terrorist attack as it repeated a warning for all Americans to reconsider traveling to any part of the country and not to visit Abuja at all.
The announcement came just two days after the department said it would allow nonessential personnel at the embassy in Abuja to depart voluntarily due to elevated security concerns. It did not provide details but the change suggested the U.S. has indications that an attack may be imminent.
“The department (has) ordered the departure of family members of U.S. government employees from Abuja due to the heightened risk of terrorist attacks there,” it said in a revised travel advisory for Nigeria.
Nigeria has battled an Islamic insurgency in its northeast for more than a decade, but attacks have been rare in Abuja. In 2011, Islamic extremists linked to the Boko Haram group targeted the United Nations building there with a car bomb, killing 21 people.
The U.S. embassy in Abuja has been warning since Sunday about an “elevated risk of terror attacks” in the city, saying that possible targets include government buildings, places of worship and other public places. It has urged Americans there to avoid all nonessential movements and crowds.
The British mission in Nigeria has issued similar alerts.
Nigeria’s secret and intelligence police, the Department of State Services, has called for calm and has advised that “necessary precautions” are being taken to prevent such attacks.
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