Amid heightened tensions in Iraq, US State Department tells US citizens to 'depart Iraq immediately'

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Jan 03, 2020, 06.45 PM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( AFP )

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Earlier on January 1 as well, the US had issued a travel advisory urging US citizens not to travel to Iraq.

Hours after United States strike killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad, the States Department issued a warning for US citizens to leave Iraq "immediately".

"Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, we urge US citizens to depart Iraq immediately," State Department said on Twitter.

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"Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the US Embassy compound, all consular operations are suspended. US citizens should not approach the Embassy," the statement added.

Earlier on January 1 as well, the US had issued a travel advisory urging US citizens not to travel to Iraq.

Earlier in the day, the US announced that it had killed the head of the country's Quds Forces, Qasem Soleimani in strike on Baghdad international airport. The US State Department later confirmed that the killing was authorised by US President Donald Trump.

Tensions with Iraq were already running high after pro-Iranian protesters laid siege the US embassy on Tuesday, reacting to weekend airstrikes that killed at least 25 fighters from the hardline Kataeb Hezbollah paramilitary group.

The strikes were in response to a 36-rocket attack last week that killed an American contractor at an Iraqi base.

The Pentagon said Soleimani had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the past few months, including on December 27, the day the contractor was killed.

Soleimani "also approved the attacks" on the US embassy in Baghdad, according to the Pentagon.

(With inputs from agencies)