The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is preparing contingency plans to evacuate its employees if necessary now that one of the deadliest Islamic militant groups in the region has taken control of large swaths of Iraq, a U.S. official told TheBlaze.
The State Department also warned U.S. citizens against traveling to Iraq, following several days of bloody clashes between insurgents with the Al Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Iraqi military forces. ISIL has taken control of Mosul, Tikrit and Fallujah and aims to create an Islamic state across the Iraq-Syria border.
Militias of the al-Qaida breakaway group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) deploy in an area in Tikrit, 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Al-Qaida-inspired militants seized effective control Wednesday of Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, expanding their offensive closer to the Iraqi capital as soldiers and security forces abandoned their posts following clashes with the insurgents. (AP Photo)
The U.S. official told TheBlaze that the U.S. Embassy, United Nations and other foreign organizations with a presence in Iraq are "preparing contingency plans to evacuate employees."
Mortar rounds and rockets have hit Baghdad International Airport and Mosul's airport has been the target of militant assault. The State Department advisory warned U.S. citizens to avoid public gathering places because of the high risk of kidnapping and terrorist violence.
A U.S. counterterrorism official said the violence has reached "levels not seen since 2007."
Iraqi forces are conducting military operations in Nineveh and Anbar provinces against the insurgent and terrorist organizations that have occupied those territories, the State Department said.
"We are working with Iraqi leaders from across the country to support a coordinated response and you can expect we will provide additional assistance to the Iraqi government to combat the threat from ISIL," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday.
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