Washington: Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri`s intercepted conversations with his deputy in the Arabian Peninsula ordering him to carry out one of the most serious attacks since 9/11 prompted closure of several American diplomatic missions in the region, a media report said on Tuesday.
The intercepted message last week between Zawahri and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the head of the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, revealed one of the most serious plots against American and Western interests since the attacks on September 11, 2001, the New York Times reported.
"Zawahiri ordered the leader of al Qaeda`s affiliate in Yemen to carry out an attack as early as this past Sunday," the paper quoted American officials as saying.
The paper said that no targets had been singled out in the talks, but that a possible attack appeared to be imminent.
Multiple media reports said the US has information that members of the Yemen-based AQAP are in the final stages of planning an unspecified attack.
After the US intercepted al Qaeda`s most serious threat in recent years to target its embassies, country`s Special Forces have been put on high alert to hit potential targets of the outfit in the Middle East, a media report has said.
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, a few days earlier, had directed some of its special forces deputed overseas to be on alert, and be ready for hitting targets of al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the CNN reported on Monday.
Such a move from the Pentagon came after US intercepted messages from a top AQAP leader to his deputy about an al Qaeda strike.
62-year-old Zawahiri, an Egyptian physician and Islamic theologian, took over al Qaeda`s command after the killing of the group`s former chief Osama bin Laden in a covert militray operation by US Special Forces in Pakistan`s Abbottabad in 2011. Zawahiri carries a USD 25 million reward on his head.
In recent weeks, Zawahri has elevated Wuhayshi to what one official described as the new "general manager" of the global terror network, making him the second most important man in the organisation, the paper said.
The American officials also said that it was highly unusual for senior al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan to discuss operational matters with the group`s affiliates.
"The communication between the two men seems to indicate that Zawahri, whom administration officials have portrayed as greatly diminished and hindered in running a global terror network while deep in hiding, still has a strong influence over a group in Yemen that has become al Qaeda`s most powerful offshoot," the NYT quoted officials as saying.
Last week, in a 15-minute audio message posted online, Zawahiri had accused the US of orchestrating former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi`s ouster.