Interpol issues global security alert linked to jailbreaks
Interpol has issued a global security alert linked to suspected al-Qaeda involvement in recent prison breakouts.
Interpol cited prison escapes in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan, and asked its members to examine if they were connected.
The police agency is also asking member countries to "swiftly process any information linked to these events".
In the most recent escape, 248 prisoners were sprung from a jail in north-west Pakistan.
Taliban militants used automatic weapons and bombs to break down the walls of the jail in Dera Ismail Khan on 30 July. At least 13 people were killed, including six police.
The authorities said 30 of those who fled were "hardened militants" jailed for involvement in suicide bombings and other serious attacks.
Hundreds of inmates escaped from two jails in Iraq - Abu Ghraib to the west of Baghdad and Taji to the north - on 22 July.
Bombs and mortar fire were used to break into the prisons. Al-Qaeda members were among those housed in the facilities.'Terrorist attack'
There were several hours of fighting after the jails first came under attack and at least 20 members of the security forces were killed.
Five days later, some 1,200 inmates broke out of a jail in the restive Libyan city of Benghazi.
"With suspected al-Qaeda involvement in several of the breakouts which led to the escape of hundreds of terrorists and other criminals, the Interpol alert requests the organisation's 190 member countries' assistance in order to determine whether any of these recent events are coordinated or linked," the French-based agency says.
It also calls for Interpol to be informed "if any escaped terrorist is located or intelligence developed which could help prevent another terrorist attack".
Calling for increased vigilance, Interpol says it is prioritising information and intelligence related to the breakouts.
Interpol's alert comes after the US state department issued a global travel alert because of fears of an unspecified al-Qaeda attack.
End Quote US state department
Current information suggests that al-Qaeda and affiliated organisations continue to plan terrorist attacks”
The department said on Friday that the potential for an attack was particularly strong in the Middle East and North Africa.
The US global travel alert was based on information from intercepts of electronic communications between senior al-Qaeda figures, according to officials quoted by the New York Times.
In its report, the New York Times says high-level intercepts were collected and analysed this week and that the CIA, state department and White House immediately recognised their significance.
The US state department said the alert expires on 31 August 2013 and it recommended US citizens travelling abroad be vigilant.
"Current information suggests that al-Qaeda and affiliated organisations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August," the statement said.
The alert warned of "the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure".
Earlier, the US announced it was shutting nearly two dozen embassies and consulates in the Muslim world on Sunday.
Britain is closing its embassy in Yemen on Sunday and Monday as "a precautionary measure".