Bahrain asks its citizens to leave Iran, Iraq ‘immediately’

Updated May 19, 2019

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US-allied Bahrain warned its citizens on Saturday against travel to Iraq and Iran and asked those already there to return “immediately” for their safety, state news agency BNA said. — Reuters/File
US-allied Bahrain warned its citizens on Saturday against travel to Iraq and Iran and asked those already there to return “immediately” for their safety, state news agency BNA said. — Reuters/File

DUBAI: US-allied Bahrain warned its citizens on Saturday against travel to Iraq and Iran and asked those already there to return “immediately” for their safety, state news agency BNA said.

The Bahrain foreign ministry cited, “unstable regional circumstances, dangerous developments and potential threats,” according to BNA.

The warning comes amid simmering tensions between the United States and Iran.

Washington on Wednesday pulled non-emergency staff members from its embassy in the Iraqi capital Baghdad out of apparent concern about perceived threats from neighbouring Iran, to which Iraqi Shia militias are allied.

Exxon evacuates foreign staff

Exxon Mobil has evacuated all of its foreign staff, around 60 people, from Iraq’s West Qurna 1 oilfield and is flying them out to Dubai, a senior Iraqi official and three other sources said on Saturday.Production at the oilfield was not affected by the evacuation and work is continuing normally, overseen by Iraqi engineers, said the chief of Iraq’s state-owned South Oil Company which owns the oil field, Ihsan Abdul Jabbar. He added that production remains at 440,000 barrels per day (bpd).

“Exxon Mobil’s evacuation is a precautionary and temporary measure. We have no indication over any dangers, the situation is secure and very stable at the oilfield which is running at full capacity and producing 440,000 bpd,” he said.

“The foreign engineers will provide advice and perform their duties from the company’s Dubai offices and we have no concerns at all,” Jabbar said, adding that production is managed by Iraqi engineers and the foreign staff were there mainly as advisers.

Exxon Mobil is the lead contractor in a long-term deal with Iraq’s South Oil Company to develop and rehabilitate the oil field to increase its production. Exxon declined to confirm the evacuation.

“As a matter of practice, we don’t share specifics related to operational staffing at our facilities,” said spokeswoman Julie King.

“ExxonMobil has programmes and measures in place to provide security to protect its people, operations and facilities. We are committed to ensuring the safety of our employees and contractors at all of our facilities around the world.” Exxon Mobil’s staff were evacuated in several phases late on Friday and early on Saturday, either straight to Dubai or to the main camp housing foreign oil company employees in Basra province.

Those in the camp were en route to the airport on Saturday morning, sources — including an employee at a security company contracted by Exxon, said Iraqi oil officials and a staff member of a foreign oil company.

“Last night 28 employees were evacuated to the airport and the rest were sent to the camp. This morning they were evacuated to the airport and no (foreign) staff remain in the field,” said a private security company official who oversaw the evacuation.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2019