“Level 4: Do Not Travel”: US State Department updates travel advisory for Iraq

Level 4 Do Not Travel US State Department updates travel advisory for Iraq

WASHINGTON DC: The US State Department updated its travel advisory for Iraq to ‘Level 4: Do Not Travel’, following the increased security threats against US personnel and interests.

Replacing the previous travel advisory issued on July 13, 2023, the State Department issued the revised advisory after the ordered departure of eligible family members and non-emergency US government personnel from the US embassy in Baghdad and the US Consulate General in Erbil due to increased security threats.

“Do not travel to Iraq due to terrorism, kidnapping, armed conflict, civil unrest, and Mission Iraq’s limited capacity to provide support to U.S. citizens,” the State Department said in a statement on Sunday.

On October 20, the State Department ordered the departure of eligible family members and non-emergency US government personnel from the US Embassy in Baghdad and the US Consulate General in Erbil due to increased security threats against US personnel and interests.

“US citizens in Iraq face high risks to their safety and security, including the potential for violence and kidnapping. Terrorist and insurgent groups regularly attack Iraqi security forces and civilians. Anti-U.S. militias threaten U.S. citizens and international companies throughout Iraq,” it added in the statement.

Attacks, using improvised explosive devices, indirect fire, and unmanned aerial vehicles, occurred in many areas of the country, including Baghdad and other major cities, it noted in the release.

During an emergency, consular services to US citizens in Iraq are limited due to severe restrictions on the movements of US government personnel.

“Demonstrations, protests, and strikes occur frequently throughout the country. These events can develop quickly without prior notice, often interrupting traffic, transportation, and other services and sometimes turning violent,” the State Department added in its statement.

It further asked US citizens not to travel near Iraq’s northern borders due to the continued threat of attacks by terrorist groups, armed conflict, aerial bombardment, and civil unrest.

“US citizens should especially avoid areas near armed groups in northern Iraq, which have been targeted with aerial strikes by neighbouring countries’ militaries,” it said.

It added that US citizens should not travel through Iraq to engage in armed conflict in Syria, noting that there they would face extreme personal risks, including kidnapping, injury, or death, and legal risks like arrest, fines, and expulsion.

Meanwhile, the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq stated that “it will impose prison sentences of up to ten years on individuals who illegally cross the Iraq-Syria border”.

Additionally, fighting on behalf of or supporting designated terrorist organisations is a crime under US law that can result in prison sentences and large fines in the United States.

Furthermore, owing to security concerns, US government personnel in Baghdad are asked not to use Baghdad International Airport.

“Due to the risks to civil aviation operating in the Baghdad Flight Information Region, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has extended for an additional two years its Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) prohibiting certain flights at altitudes below 32,000 feet,” it added. (ANI)

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