Smoke rises from Yemen Defense Ministry's com
Smoke rises from Yemen Defense Ministry's comReuters

A warning of a possible attack in the part of Yemen’s capital where UN offices are located has prompted an order for staff to stay home on Thursday, a UN source told AFP on Wednesday.

“Staff of the UN mission and UN agencies have received instructions not to turn up for work on Thursday,” the source told the news agency, adding that it was a “precautionary measure following advice from Yemeni security authorities”.

The guidance warned of the “risk of possible acts of terrorism in certain places, particular Hida,” the south Sanaa neighborhood where the UN offices are located, the source said.

A government spokesman told AFP that Western embassies were not affected by the alert.

“Additional security measures will be taken around certain key installations and foreign interests, including the offices of (French energy giant) Total,” the spokesman said.

However, he added that the American School, in a northwestern suburb of Sanaa, will close on Thursday.

Security forces have been on high alert in the city since a brazen daylight attack on the defense ministry’s sprawling headquarters on December 5 killed 56 people, among them expatriate medical staff.

Information gleaned during the investigation into that attack, which was claimed by Al-Qaeda, led to the discovery of two cars packed with explosives and a massive search for five more suspected to be still inside Sanaa.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has stepped up its attacks against Yemeni security forces in recent years, though these attacks have been mainly in the lawless southern and eastern provinces where jihadist groups are active.

The Islamist network has taken advantage of the weakening of the central government in Sanaa since a popular uprising that toppled president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011.

In August, the United States closed down all its embassies in the Middle East for several days after U.S. intelligence intercepted a phone call between al-Wuhayshi and Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. During the phone call, al-Wuhayshi reportedly vowed to carry out an attack that would "change the face of history".