US evacuates some consulate staff from Iraqi city of Arbil

AFP
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters take position on the front line in Makhmur, about 280 kilometres north of the capital Baghdad, during clashes with Islamic State militants on August 9, 2014
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Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters take position on the front line in Makhmur, about 280 kilometres north of the capital Baghdad, during clashes with Islamic State militants on August 9, 2014 (AFP Photo/Safin Hamed)

Washington (AFP) - The United States evacuated some staff members from the Iraqi Kurdish city of Arbil, the State Department said, out of "an abundance of caution" amid an offensive by Islamist militants.

The notice announcing "the departure of some staff from the consulate general in Arbil," came in the form of a State Department travel warning for Iraq, just two days after a previous one.

Meanwhile State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf confirmed in a statement that the move was made "in light of the security situation in Iraq" and that the US had "temporarily relocated a limited number of staff from Consulate Arbil to our consulate in Basra (southern Iraq) and to the Iraq support unit in Amman," Jordan.

"While security concerns remain extremely high in Iraq, this limited move today is out of an abundance of caution rather than any one specific threat," she said.

"Overall, a majority of our personnel in Arbil remain in place, and our consulate is fully equipped to carry out its national security mission."

"The US consulate in Arbil remains open and will continue to engage daily with Iraqis and their elected leaders -- supporting them as they strengthen Iraq's constitutional processes and defend themselves from imminent threats," she added.

The United States on Friday began a campaign of air strikes aimed at halting the advance of Sunni militants from the so-called Islamic State, which in recent days had come within striking distance of Arbil, the Kurdish capital.

US President Barack Obama had justified the strikes in part to protect US personnel stationed in Arbil.

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