American citizens urged to leave Iraq immediately

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WASHINGTON (WFLA) – American citizens are being urged to leave Iraq immediately due to what the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad calls “heightened tensions in Iraq and the region.”

The U.S. Embassy issued the security alert Friday morning, hours after the U.S. assassinated Iran’s top general. Iran has vowed “harsh retaliation.

According to a statement released by the Department of Defense Thursday night, the U.S. military took “defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.” The airstrike that killed Soleimani happened near Baghdad’s airport.

The alert from the U.S. Embassy urges Americans to leave the country immediately via airline, “while possible.” If Americans can’t travel by air, they’re encouraged to get to other countries by land.

U.S. citizens are also being told to stay away from the Embassy in Baghdad. All public consular operations were suspended until further notice on Jan. 1 due to “Iranian-backed militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound.”

“U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy. The U.S. Consulate General in Erbil is open for visa and American Citizen Services appointments, including passport issuance,” the U.S. Embassy wrote in a Jan. 1 alert.

The U.S. Department of State issued a travel advisory for Iraq on Jan. 1 listing it at “Level 4: Do Not Travel” due to 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,” the advisory warned. “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.”

If you are a U.S. citizen in Iraq or are concerned about family in Iraq, you can contact the Department of state at +1-202-501-4444 or toll-free in the U.S. at 1-888-407-4747.

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