Government raises alert level 3 in Iraq

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012


MANILA (Updated 10:39 a.m.) -- Crisis alert level 3 has been raised Wednesday in Iraq due to "higher-than-expected" surge in terrorist and sectarian violence in the Western Asia nation, foreign affairs officials said.

Under alert level 3, which covers all regions of Iraq except the northern autonomous region of Kurdistan, Filipinos who wish to leave Iraq are offered voluntary repatriation at government expense.

"The alert was prompted by the higher than expected surge in terrorist and sectarian violence in Iraq following the withdrawal of United States (US) military forces in December 2011," the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

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A ban on the further deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) is automatically imposed in coordination with the Department of Labor and Employment.

The DFA likewise advised Filipinos not to travel to the affected areas, while alert level 3 is in effect.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario has given marching orders to the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad to contact and urge all remaining OFWs in the country, to avail of the DFA's repatriation offer.

According to the DFA, there are currently 192 OFWs in Iraq's Kurdish Region and 279 in the rest of the country that are registered with the Embassy.

Kurdistan sits near the country's border with Turkey.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, in turn, assured Del Rosario that it is ready to provide any assistance to the Philippine Government's repatriation efforts.

Embassy officials will also meet with respective employers of Filipinos who will choose to stay in Iraq, in order to review the security protocols of those companies.

The US military completed its withdrawal from Iraq in December after nearly nine years of war. Both sides had considered keeping at least several thousand US troops there to provide comprehensive field training for Iraqi security forces, but they failed to strike a deal before the expiration of a 2008 agreement that required all American troops to leave.

As a result, training is limited to a group of American service members and contractors in Baghdad who will help Iraqis learn to operate newly acquired weapons systems. (Sunnex/CVB/AP)

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