U.S. military spokesman says U.S. consulate in Nigeria shut down following terror threat

The United States temporarily closed its consulate in Lagos after a terror threat was called in, a U.S. military spokeswoman said Friday.

Other nations followed the move, closing their diplomatic missions located near the Americans' in Nigeria's main city.

"There was some kind of terrorist threat made. It was a terrorist, threat called in," Maj. Holly Silkman, a spokeswoman for the Germany-based U.S. European Command, told reporters in Dakar, Senegal. Maj. Silkman, who was in Dakar for a U.S.-led joint counterterrorism exercise involving Nigeria, Senegal and seven other north and west African countries, offered no details.

Nigeria's Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the government had begun "to investigate and address the situation, in collaboration with the United States authorities." It gave no further details.

In a statement issued late Thursday, the U.S. Embassy said its consulate in Lagos was shut down on Thursday afternoon "because of a security issue of mutual concern to the United States Mission in Nigeria and the government of Nigeria."

The statement said the consulate would also remain closed on Friday. The U.S. Embassy was operating only skeletal services, an embassy official in Abuja said.

Around 100 armed police patrolled Walter Carrington Street in Lagos, where the U.S. consulate and several other diplomatic missions are located. A Nigerian police bomb disposal squad van was parked outside the U.S. mission.

All diplomatic missions on the street were closed, including those of Italy, Germany, Britain and Russia. The Foreign Office in London said Britain shut its Deputy High Commission in Lagos as a precaution following the closure of the nearby U.S. Consulate.

A British Foreign Office spokesman added he had no details on the nature of the security concerns that led to the U.S. mission's closure.

"We'll reassess over the weekend, but the plan is to reopen on Monday," said British Deputy High Commissioner Martin Shearman from Abuja.

The closure came amid the U.S.-led counterterrorism exercise that was part of efforts to improve regional collaboration against terror threats.

Al-Qaida chief Osama Bin Laden purportedly marked Nigeria for liberation in a release posted on the Internet last year. The country of around 130 million is roughly evenly split between Christians and Muslims.

Political, ethnic and religious violence has claimed well over 10,000 lives since President Olusegun Obasanjo came to power in 1999 polls, but the country has not experienced any terrorist bombings.

DULUE MBACHU, Associated Press Writer

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