Bahrainis in Iraq warned of crisis
Manama, June 13, 2014
Bahrain is advising its citizens in Iraq to leave "immediately" after Islamist militants took control of two cities.
The Foreign Ministry issued the alert yesterday after fighters from the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) consolidated positions in Mosul and Tikrit, reported the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
Iraq is a popular destination for Bahrainis due to religious tourism and thousands travel there every year to visit Shi'ite shrines.
However, in a statement the Foreign Ministry described the situation there as "critical".
"Citizens who are still in Iraq should leave immediately due to the critical security situation and instability," it said.
Bahrainis in Iraq are being advised to contact the Bahrain Embassy in Baghdad on +9647801970008 or through its Twitter account @BahrainEmbIQ.
They can also contact the Bahrain consulate in Najaf on +9647601700011, +9647815222413 or via its Twitter account @BahrainConIQ.
Two hotlines have also been set up in Bahrain to provide round-the-clock support to those who need it. They can be reached on 17212006 and 17227555.
Bahrain's Ambassador to Iraq Salah Al Malki told the GDN from Baghdad that the situation was tense in the northern parts of the country.
"We are on alert following the advisory issued by our government urging Bahrainis to leave immediately and avoid travelling to troubled areas," he said.
"However, the situation in Baghdad up to now is normal."
Mr Al Malki added that because of the time of year, there was not a large contingent of Bahrainis in Iraq.
"We have a few visitors in the southern area and around 35 students in Najaf," he said.
ISIS militants have reportedly kidnapped 48 Turkish nationals including the Consul General of Turkey and several consulate staff working in Mosul.
Earlier reports indicated that ISIS fighters were moving towards Samarra, which is only 110km north of Baghdad.
Mr Al Malki said Bahrain was the first country in the region to issue an advisory to its nationals, but added there had not been an increase in security at the embassy.
"All the embassy staff are safe and, like I said, the situation in Baghdad is normal till now," said the diplomat.
As many as 500,000 people have reportedly fled Mosul in the wake of violence.
Iraqi authorities have reportedly informed the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) of thousands of families fleeing to safe areas surrounding the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
An estimated 100,000 displaced people have entered Erbil, where the UNHCR is mobilising tents and distributing other essential relief items.
The ISIS, which says it wants to create an Islamic emirate spanning both sides of the Iraq-Syria border, has vowed to march on to Baghdad after taking Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit on Wednesday and capturing much of Mosul - Iraq's second largest city - the previous day.
The group and its allies among local tribesmen also hold the city of Fallujah and other pockets of the Sunni-dominated Anbar province to the west of Baghdad.
However, Iraqi forces are said to have launched at least four air strikes on militants occupying Saddam Hussein's palace compound in Tikrit yesterday.
The ISIS spokesman has vowed to take the fight into the capital and boasted that its fighters would take the southern Shi'ite cities of Karbala and Najaf, which hold two of the holiest shrines for Shi'ite Muslims.
Meanwhile, Kurdish security forces reportedly took over an air base and other posts abandoned by the Iraqi military in Kirkuk.
Iraqi President Nouri Al Maliki has asked Iraq's parliament to declare a state of emergency that would give him "necessary powers" to run the country.
Legislators tried to hold a session to approve the measure yesterday, but too few showed up and they were unable to reach quorum to vote.
Iran has reportedly offered to help the Iraqi government put down the insurgency after saying it was halting flights to Baghdad because of security concerns. – TradeArabia News Service