The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have now warned Australians not to travel to Iraq. As for the Australians who are presently situated in Iraq, they have been warned to leave the country immediately while the Baghdad airport is accessible for commercial flights.
“Australians in Iraq, including in Iraqi Kurdistan, should depart immediately while commercial flights continue to operate and airports in Baghdad and Erbil remain open,” DFAT warned.
“We advise against travel to all of Iraq, including Iraqi Kurdistan,” it said.
According to DFAT reports, 181 Australians are registered to be present in Iraq and more are working or living without registrations.
Defense Official Peter Jennings, who also heads the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and the advisory panel for the government’s defense white paper, stated that the IS jihadists have infiltrated Abu Ghraib and have also captured a large portion of the Anbar province. That said, there is a decent chance that the Baghdad Airport will soon be targeted with mortar bombs.
According to the acting Chief of Defense force, Ray Griggs, Baghdad might soon fall in the clutches of IS militants.
“People have been saying that Baghdad could be falling within a week for about three months … my understanding is it’s stable in terms of movements,” he told ABC Radio. “And in key parts of the area, the Iraqi security forces are holding their own.”
Recent reports have stated that the diplomatic staffs in Iraq have been reduced to a minimum and consular help for Australian citizens is no longer available in Iraq.
“We will retain a diplomatic presence in Baghdad, but the embassy will remain closed to the public until further notice,” DFAT said.
“Consular assistance is no longer available within Iraq.
“Given the extremely dangerous security situation, we strongly recommend that you register your travel and contact details with us so we can contact you in an emergency.”
DFAT also mentioned that the security in Iraq has deteriorated since the past months.
“Armed opposition groups are now active in many parts of Iraq, including in Iraqi Kurdistan,” it said. “The situation could deteriorate further with little warning. The US-led coalition, including Australia, has conducted targeted air strikes against militants in Iraq.”
Although some flights have been cancelled from Irbil and Baghdad International Airports, most international flights remain active. However, some international carriers have suspended operations in and out of Irbil.