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State Dept. tells Americans to ‘immediately’ leave Iraq after top Iranian general killed

A Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 MV-22 Osprey flies past the Baghdad International Airport air traffic control tower while on approach to Sather Air Base, Iraq on March 16, 2008. Sather AB, located on the west side of Baghdad International Airport, is the largest passenger hub in Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt Jeffrey Allen)
January 03, 2020

The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq have advised Americans in the country to leave Iraq as soon as possible after U.S. airstrikes killed a top Iranian general who was devising attacks on diplomats and service members in the country.

The U.S. State Department’s travel advisory updated this week lists Iraq as a red-alert “Level 4: Do Not Travel” zone, but a new alert issued Friday morning warns citizens to “depart Iraq immediately.”

The alert comes amid heightened concern of attacks by Iran, following the death of Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Iranian leaders have vowed ‘severe revenge’ against the U.S. for the deadly strike.

The State Department advisory also warns against travel out of concern for “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 travel 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.”

The advisory further warns those U.S. citizens who persist with their travel plans to Iraq to draft a will and discuss funeral arrangements with loved ones beforehand.

Travelers are further advised to prepare personal security plans, read the advice prepared by the State Department for travel in high-risk areas and join the Smart Traveller Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive specific security alerts and assistance in the event they go missing.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad also issued a security alert Friday morning, advising U.S. citizens depart from Iraq immediately while airline flights are possible and then seek land travel if flights cease to be an option.

The embassy security alert further noted that its consular operations were suspended, “Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound.”

Demonstrators attacked the embassy in Baghdad after prior U.S. airstrikes against pro-Iranian militias responsible for their own deadly attacks on U.S. personnel in the country.

“U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy,” the alert stated.

The security alert further advised U.S. citizens seeking visas or passports that they can go to The U.S. Consulate General in Erbil, the capital of the Iraqi Kurdistan region.