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In a statement, the department said the potential for an attack was particularly strong in the Middle East and North Africa.
It comes shortly after the US announced nearly two dozen embassies and consulates would be shut on Sunday.
The alert expires on 31 August 2013, the department said. 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.
It's not unusual for the state department to issue travel warnings, ranging from a caution to an alert. But this one is both wide-ranging and somewhat specific, as it comes after the announcement that 14 American embassies will be closed in the Middle East and North Africa.
The alert is based on intelligence that goes beyond the usual chatter, according to lawmakers, but the state department is also acting out of an abundance caution.