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US orders all non-emergency personnel to leave Iraq

US orders all non-emergency personnel to leave Iraq
Washington has ordered the withdrawal of its “non-emergency” staff from Iraq, the US Embassy in Baghdad said on Wednesday. The move follows an alert on tensions in the country.

Some government employees are set to leave the embassy in Baghdad, as well as the US Consulate in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Normal visa services will be temporarily suspended.

American nationals were advised to avoid US government sites in Iraq and leave the country “as soon as possible.”

On Sunday, the embassy warned of “heightened tensions” in Iraq and called on US citizens there to “remain vigilant.”

The move comes a week after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned of “very specific threats” coming from “Iranian activity” in Iraq. These threats pose a “substantial risk” for US diplomatic outposts and servicemen stationed in the country, he told Sky News after visiting Baghdad.

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Washington had earlier deployed the aircraft carrier USS ‘Abraham Lincoln’ to the Persian Gulf. White House National Security Advisor John Bolton said it was meant to convey a message to Iran that the US is prepared for any attacks on its interests.

Baghdad, meanwhile, continues to be plagued by terrorist attacks. On Thursday, a bomb went off at a marketplace, killing eight people. Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) claimed the responsibility for the blast.

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