ISLAMABAD: The US government ordered the evacuation of non-essential staff from its consulate in Lahore on Friday due to the threat of attack, with the State Department also warning US citizens not to travel to Pakistan.
"The Department of State ordered this drawdown due to specific threats concerning the US consulate in Lahore," said a travel warning posted on the Department of State's website on Thursday.
The Lahore warning noted that "several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups pose a potential danger to US citizens throughout Pakistan".
"US citizens in Pakistan are strongly advised to avoid all protests and large gatherings."
US government personnel restricted
The warning added that US government personnel may face restrictions on travel between the Embassy in Islamabad and consulates in Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar due to security or other reasons.
Movements by US government personnel assigned to the Consulates General was also severely restricted, and consulate staff cannot drive personally-owned vehicles.
However, Embassy staff was permitted to drive personally-owned vehicles in the greater Islamabad area.
"US officials in Islamabad are instructed to limit the frequency of travel and minimise the duration of trips to public markets, restaurants, and other locations."
The warning in Lahore comes two days after Washington evacuated some diplomats from Yemen and told its nationals to leave that country immediately.
The United States shut nearly two dozen missions across the Middle East after a worldwide alert on August 2, warning Americans that al Qaeda may be planning attacks in August, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.
A US embassy spokesperson said it was unclear when the consulate would reopen. Tensions have also risen this week with Pakistan's neighbour India over the disputed territory of Kashmir.
It was unclear if the Lahore announcement was linked with the earlier US closures. The embassy spokesperson said the closure was due to a specific threat to Lahore.
Lahore has suffered from attacks by militant groups. The most notable attack was on a bus carrying members of the Sri Lankan national cricket team in 2009. That was followed by an attack on the office of Inter-Services Intelligence.
Recently in July 2013, a bomb killed five people and wounded dozens on a restaurant-lined street, popular with tourists.
Pakistan faces threat from a number of forein militant groups and their local affiliates, including al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other sectarian groups.
The US State Department initially announced the wider embassy closures would be only for last Sunday, then extended the closures of some by a week and added Burundi, Rwanda and Mauritius to the closure list.
A number of the missions would have been closed anyway for most of the week due to the Eid celebration at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the State Department said.
Yemen, one of the poorest Arab countries, is the base for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the most active branches of the network founded by Osama bin Laden. Militants have launched attacks from there against the West.
US sources have told Reuters that intercepted communication between bin Laden's successor as al Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, and the Yemen-based wing was one part of the intelligence behind their alert last week.
Correction: An earlier version of the story incorrectly spelled "terror" as "terrot". The error is regretted.