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August 2nd, 2013
11:12 AM ET

State Dept. Closing Middle East Embassies Sunday

A "serious and credible" terror threat is prompting the U.S. State Department to close more than a dozen embassies and consulates in the Middle East and across the Muslim world on Sunday.

Officials say the unspecified threat is directed at U.S. targets overseas, and may not be confined to diplomatic posts.

“The move comes as the holy days that mark the end of Ramadan approach at merely a year after the deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya,” reports CNN’s Barbara Starr.

“Now the embassy in the capital Tripoli will be closed.”

Embassies in Cairo, Tel Aviv, Riyadh, and Baghdad, which “would normally have been open on Sunday,” are also being shut down.

“And the closings may expand to include additional days,” Starr says.

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Filed under: Middle East • Pentagon • Security • State Department
May 31st, 2013
08:30 AM ET

American woman killed in Syria; state TV claims she was fighting for rebels – Nick Paton Walsh reports

CNN is reporting that an American woman has been killed in Syria in the midst of its civil war. She has been identified as Nicole Lynn Mansfield. Syrian TV reports that Mansfield, 33, from Flint, Michigan, was killed by government forces while fighting for rebels in Syria.

CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh is tracking the latest developments live from Beirut.

Filed under: Michigan • Middle East • Syria
March 20th, 2013
05:48 AM ET

President Obama makes first visit to Israel amid growing concerns of chemical weapons use in Syria – Sara Sidner reports

President Obama arrives in Tel Aviv for the start of a historic Middle East visit today. He is scheduled to meet separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during the trip. The president is expected discuss the United States’ commitment to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran with Netanyahu and restarting negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

His plane lands in less than 90 minutes but his mission is taking on a new urgency at this hour because there is mounting evidence the Syrian government has used chemical weapons on its own people near the city of Aleppo.

Sara Sidner is live in Jerusalem for "Early Start" this morning with the latest on how developments in Syria might affect the president’s agenda on this trip.

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Filed under: Israel • Israel-Gaza conflict • Middle East • Palestine • Syria
January 30th, 2013
07:13 AM ET

Security footage of missing American woman in Istanbul could yield clues – Ivan Watson reports


The family of a New York woman last seen earlier this month in Turkey is pleading for help, and clinging to hope, as they try to find out what happened to her and bring her home.

Sarai Sierra traveled to Istanbul on January 7 and over the next two weeks chronicled her trip in photos. She last spoke to her family on January 21, the day before she was ticketed to fly back to New York City.

This morning on "Early Start," CNN's Ivan Watson reports on new security footage of Sierra in Istanbul, and what it could mean for the search.

READ MORE: Family seeks help finding New York woman last seen in Istanbul

September 20th, 2012
09:35 AM ET

How will US's role in Middle East shape presidential election? CNN's Elise Labott reports

New details have emerged regarding the attack in Benghazi that claimed the lives of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The nation's counterterrorism chief reports to Congress Wednesday that an act of terrorism was responsible for the death of the four Americans killed in Libya.

Sources tell CNN, that Ambassador Stevens expressed concerns about security in the months before he died – specifically mentioning a rise in Islamic extremism and a growing al Qaeda presence in Libya.

Reports from sources also say the Stevens was worried about what he called the never-ending security threats in Benghazi and his name being mentioned on an al Qaeda hit list.

With tensions in the Middle East heating up as the presidential campaigns near election day, how will the US's role in the region shape the race? CNN's foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott explains to John Berman on "Early Start."

Filed under: 2012 election • Libya • Middle East • Politics
September 17th, 2012
10:51 AM ET

New protests in Afghanistan turn violent – CNN's Anna Coren reports

Protests got angry and violent outside of U.S. and NATO bases in Kabul this morning, with demonstrators firing guns, throwing rocks, and setting at least two police cars on fire near the American embassy.

An Afghan police official reported that at least fifteen officers were injured in the protests against an offensive anti-Islam film.

CNN's Anna Coren reports the latest out of Kabul on Early Start this morning.

Filed under: Afghanistan • Middle East
September 17th, 2012
10:43 AM ET

American Islamic Congress director argues U.S. should not apologize for anti-Islamic film

While unrest continues to spread in the Middle East, Zainab Al-Suwaij, executive director of the American Islamic Congress, argues that the American government must explain that the existence of the anti-Islamic film produced in the United States is allowed through constitutional rights to free speech rather than apologizing for its production.

“I think we should be more direct about the situation,” Al-Suwaij says on Early Start this morning. “I think we’ve positioned ourselves very weak[ly] in the past few days, especially in terms of apologizing about the film. I think the film has not – in any way, shape, or form - been supported by the American government or the American public. It’s an act of an individual that led to what’s going on. Under our constitution and the freedom of the press and freedom of speech and of religion, we cannot stop these instances from happening and I think we should be clear about that. We should deliver the message strongly not by apologizing, but by explaining our position as the American government and the American nation as well.”

Al-Suwaij also explains that the film is only one cause of the unrest. “I think there are a lot of other political goals behind the riots that are going on,” she says. “I think that the political goals that these radicals have... are much bigger than just a bad quality film that’s been put on YouTube. It’s a similar situation to what we had years ago with the Danish cartoon.”

Filed under: Middle East
September 14th, 2012
12:20 PM ET

American Islamic Congress director: 'All critical thinkers are being silenced' in Middle East unrest

An anti-Islam film that has Muslims all over the world enraged is again making headlines this morning. 

Nasser Weddady, director of the American Islamic Congress, joins Early Start today to discuss the escalating situation, explaining that both conservative and political elements in power are encouraging the protests.

“Today, we should expect a lot of radical elements surfing on this wave and trying to stoke anti-American sentiment,” Weddady says. “It is important to stress that we know who triggered this and we know how to stop it.”

Weddady explains that people opposing the demonstrations are unable to voice their opinions. “As a result of these riots and this explosion of outrage, all critical thinkers are being silenced effectively by this,” he says. “No one can come out at this moment and take a different opinion than is being broadcast and basically that is used to rouse the masses."

Regarding the future of the protests, Weddady says that he expects to see popular anger spread until the big next event happens.

Weddady explains that some governments will leverage this situation to drive through an effort to “impose through the U.N anti-blasphemy laws as a new international norm.”

“That is cause to concern, because it would create basically this double standard where free speech is gonna be curtailed,” Weddady says.

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Filed under: Middle East