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Countries move to evacuate, restrict citizens after Iran missile attacks on US bases in Iraq

This still image from an Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting video shot on January 8, 2020 shows missiles launched from Iran at the US military base in Ein-al Asad in Iraq. (Via AFP)

Countries have been warning their citizens to prepare for evacuation from and avoid traveling to Iraq, following retaliatory missile attacks by Iran against two US military bases in the Arab country.

Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) fired ballistic missiles at two US airbases in Iraq on Wednesday in retaliation for the US military’s assassination of Iranian commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.

Following the attacks, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered his country’s military to prepare to deploy aircraft and ships “at any moment’s notice” to evacuate Philippine workers in Iraq and Iran.

The Philippine Foreign Ministry raised “the alert level in the entire Iraq… to alert level 4 calling for mandatory evacuation.”

Eduardo Menez, a spokesman at the Foreign Ministry, said there were 1,600 Philippine working in Iraq.

India issues travel alert

India issued a travel alert to its citizens, calling on them to be alert and avoid traveling to Iraq, the government said in a statement.

It advised the citizens to avoid all none-essential travels to the country “until future notice.”

Asian airlines avoiding Iran, Iraq airspace

Meanwhile, several Asian airlines said they would be avoiding Iranian and Iraqi airspace.

Singapore Airlines announced on Wednesday that it was diverting all flight routes from Iranian airspace.

“In view of the latest developments in the region, all SIA [Singapore Airlines] flights in and out of Europe are diverted from the Iranian airspace,” the airline said. “We are monitoring the situation closely and will make the appropriate adjustments to our routes if necessary.”

Taiwan’s China Airlines also said that it would not fly over Iran or Iraq.

The company will continue to monitor the situation and adjust routes accordingly, it said in a statement.

US restricts flights over Iraq, Iran

Meanwhile, the US issued a warning on Wednesday, restricting American civil aviation from flying over Iran and Iraq and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it banned the flights “due to heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the Middle East.”

Air France, Lufthansa suspend flights over Iran, Iraq

European airlines are also joining those in Asia in banning their airplanes from flying through Iranian and Iraqi airspace.

Germany’s largest airline, Lufthansa, suspended flights over Iraqi and Iranian airspace, according to a spokesman, who said that the airline canceled a flight from Frankfurt to Tehran on Wednesday.

Air France also decided to suspend “until further notice” flights through the airspace of the two countries.

“As a precautionary measure and following news of airstrikes underway, Air France has decided to suspend until further notice all flights through Iranian and Iraqi airspace,” said an Air France spokesman.

UAE cancels flights to Baghdad

The Emirates Airline and flydubai also announced they had canceled their flights to the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, for “operational reasons” on Wednesday.

Last week, Bahrain’s Gulf Air had suspended flights to and from Baghdad and the Iraqi holy city of Najaf “until further notice.”

On Monday, Kuwait Airways also said on Twitter that its flights to Najaf had been suspended for four weeks due to “safety” reasons.

Russia orders carriers to avoid Iran, Iraq airspace

Later on Wednesday, Russia ordered its carriers to avoid flights in the airspace of Iraq, Iran, the Persian Gulf, and the Gulf of Oman.

The Russian Federal Air Transport Agency, Rosaviatsia, said the air carriers need to avoid flights in the region “due to information on existing security risks for international civil aircraft flights.”

Russian civilian flights, including transit flights, are not allowed to use the airspace over the territories “until further notice,” it added.

No Danish soldier injured or killed

In separate news, Denmark’s armed forces said in a Twitter post on Wednesday that no Danish soldier had been killed or injured in Iran’s missile attacks on the US air bases in Iraq.

Denmark has 130 troops at al-Asad airbase — one of the targeted military bases — as part of an international coalition in the country.

No Australian troops

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country’s diplomats and military forces were safe in the country.

However, Morrison ordered the chief of the country’s military “to take whatever actions are necessary” to protect troops and diplomats there.

The national security committee of the Australian cabinet is scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss the situation in the Middle East and Australia’s role there.

New Zealand forces safe in Iraq

New Zealand’s acting prime minister, Winston Peters, said the country’s military personnel in Iraq were safe.

He said that “the government has been informed that all New Zealand personnel are as safe as they can be in these developing circumstances.”

The country has 50 military personnel in Iraq.

No Polish troops hurt

Later in the day, Poland’s Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said no troops from the country had been hurt in the missile attacks in Iraq.

“None of the Polish soldiers in Iraq were hurt in rocket attacks on al-Asad and Erbil bases,” Blaszczak wrote in a Twitter message. “We are in constant contact with the commander of the Polish Military Contingent in Iraq.”

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