Bahraini envoys ordered to leave Iraq
Manama, June 17, 2014
Bahraini diplomats have been ordered to evacuate Iraq as militant forces moved closer to the capital yesterday (June 16).
The Bahrain Embassy in Baghdad is expected to close by the end of this week and Ambassador Salah Al Malki and staff members will return to Bahrain, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
The government has also issued airline tickets for around 30 Bahraini students in Najaf, but Al Malki told the GDN they were informed the pupils have decided to stay back to complete their final examinations.
Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have seized major cities in the north of the country in the past week and threatened to take Baghdad, raising the spectre of a cross-border sectarian war spanning Iraq and Syria.
"We have received instructions from the Foreign Affairs Ministry to leave the country immediately," said Al Malki. "We will be leaving in the next two to three days after completing formalities."
He said employees working at Bahrain's consulate in Najaf will also return home.
"This is a temporary precautionary measure and we will return once the situation improves," he added.
Al Malki said he will continue to persuade the university students to follow suit. "The embassy is in constant touch with the 30 students and have provided them with airline and bus tickets to return," he explained.
"However, because of their (exam) schedules they have decided to stay while a handful of visitors who arrived in Iraq left in a couple of days."
ISIL fighters and allied Sunni tribesmen yesterday overran the town of Saqlawiya west of Baghdad, where they captured six Humvees and two tanks - adding to an arsenal of US-provided armour they have seized from the disintegrating Iraqi army.
They also captured the mainly ethnic Turkmen city of Tal Afar in northwestern Iraq after heavy fighting on Sunday, tightening their grip on the north having already seized Mosul and other Sunni cities including Tikrit, the hometown of ex-dictator Saddam Hussein.
Fighters then swept through towns and cities on the Tigris before halting about an hour's drive north of Baghdad.
Militants have reportedly kidnapped 48 Turkish nationals, including the consul-general of Turkey, and executed around 1,700 soldiers.
A series of pictures distributed on a purported ISIL Twitter account appeared to show gunmen from the Islamist group shooting dozens of men, unarmed and lying prone on the ground.
ISIL emerged after the fall of Saddam Hussein and fought against the US occupation as an Al Qaeda affiliate, but broke away from Al Qaeda after joining the civil war in Syria.
It wants to establish a caliphate, or Islamic state, that would stretch from Iraq into northern Syria.
Shi'ites, who form the majority in Iraq and are based mainly in the south, have rallied to defend the country - with thousands of volunteers turning out to join the security forces after a mobilisation call by a top Shi'ite cleric.
Aircraft carrier USS George H W Bush and several other warships have also sailed into the Gulf carrying 550 marines as US President Barack Obama is considering possible military options, including joint combat efforts with Iran. - TradeArabia News Service