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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fearful U.S. Citizens Get No Answers At Embassy

The U.S. State Department has warned Americans abroad that the air strikes on Afghanistan "may result in strong anti-American sentiment and retaliatory actions against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world."

The worldwide alert, issued Sunday, urged U.S. nationals to monitor local news, limit their movements and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Yet concerned American citizens in Russia who contacted the U.S. Embassy on Monday could receive no additional services or information regarding possible security threats. The reason: The embassy was closed due to the U.S. Columbus Day holiday.

Callers to the embassy heard a recorded message informing them that the embassy was closed and they should call back Tuesday. Those who stayed on hold were able to reach an operator, but she had little to offer them.

"American citizens are calling because they're afraid," said the operator, who declined to give her name. "It's like the calls we got after the Sept. 11 attacks. They don't know what's going on. But I have to explain that we're closed because it's a holiday. Normally, we have a hot line. But not today."

The operator referred callers with emergencies to special-duty officers, but was unable to provide any assistance to American citizens who weren't in immediate danger. An embassy hot line, which was set up after last month's terrorist attacks on Washington and New York, was not working.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy said that apart from e-mailing the State Department's warning to American citizens who are registered with the embassy, the mission was closed Monday and doing nothing for U.S. nationals in Russia.

"It's a holiday," he said. "There's only a skeleton staff here today."

Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London issued a warning to British citizens overseas on Monday, advising them to keep a low profile, maintain a high level of vigilance, avoid situations where there might be tension and stay abreast of developing news.

The British Embassy in Moscow said that e-mailing this message to British citizens in Russia was the only step the embassy took Monday in response to the attacks. Embassy spokesman David Arkley said the embassy had received no telephone calls.

"Unlike Americans, British citizens aren't too concerned," he said.

Neither Britain nor the United States has a strong embassy presence in the former Soviet states in Central Asia that border Afghanistan, according to official web sites. Both nations have small embassies in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. There is neither a British nor a U.S. embassy in Tajikistan.

In an attempt to prevent potential retaliatory attacks in Moscow, Mayor Yury Luzhkov on Monday asked the city's police chief, Viktor Pronin, to tighten security around the embassies of the United States, Britain and other NATO member countries, according to a police spokesman. Law enforcement officials will also be on alert at large shopping centers, airports, railway stations, the metro and other municipal facilities.

Nabi Abdullaev contributed to this report.