“Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, we urge U.S. citizens to depart Iraq immediately. Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound, all consular operations are suspended,” the alert from the department stated.
“U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy.”
U.S. citizens in Iraq or those concerned about loved ones in Iraq were told to contact the State Department by phone and to avoid the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. They were also advised to follow local and international media outlets for updates on the situation.
#Iraq: Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, we urge U.S. citizens to depart Iraq immediately. Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound, all consular operations are suspended. U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy. pic.twitter.com/rdRce3Qr4a
— Travel – State Dept (@TravelGov) January 3, 2020
The alert came two days after the State Department issued a travel advisory telling Americans not to travel to Iraq, citing “terrorism, kidnapping, and armed conflict.”
“U.S. citizens in Iraq are at high risk for violence and kidnapping. Numerous terrorist and insurgent groups are active in Iraq and regularly attack both Iraqi security forces and civilians. Anti-U.S. sectarian militias may also threaten U.S. citizens and Western companies throughout Iraq. Attacks by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) occur in many areas of the country, including Baghdad,” the department stated.
Attacks on the embassy forced it to suspend public consular services.
The attacks were orchestrated by Iran-backed militias, top U.S. officials said.
The escalation warning Americans to leave Iraq immediately came after President Donald Trump ordered an airstrike on Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds force.
The strikes near Baghdad International Airport happened early Friday morning local time.
“At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization,” the Department of Defense said in a statement.
According to the United States, Soleimani was responsible for orchestrating attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the past several months, which included the attack at the Kirkuk military base in northern Iraq on Dec. 27 that killed an American and wounded several American and Iraqi troops.