Iraq denies reports of U.S. staff evacuation from military base

Iraq denies reports of U.S. staff evacuation from military base

BAGHDAD (Rahnuma): Iraq on Saturday denied reports that the United States will evacuate hundreds of contractors of security companies from an Iraqi military base in central of the country, the Iraqi military said.

“We deny the reports of evacuation of U.S. contractors or any other individuals from Balad air base,” Yahia Rasoul, spokesman for the media office of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, said in a statement posted on his Twitter page.

“We are protecting Iraqi military bases to ensure the safety of our soldiers, advisors and trainers from the U.S. and other coalition forces,” Rasoul said.

An Iraqi engineer at the U.S. company Sallyport Global told Xinhua on condition of anonymity on Saturday that the workers of the company “received an email which confirmed that the company has no intention to evacuate from Balad air base.”

“The email said that the reports of evacuation are false,” he said, adding that the company informed the Iraqi workers to continue their work with vigilance.

On Friday, foreign and local media reports said that two U.S. companies, Lockheed Martin Corp. and Sallyport Global, will evacuate their staff from Balad air base in Salahuddin province over security threats.

A security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity late Friday that the two companies had prepared a plan for evacuation from the air base, but a final decision will be made and offered to the workers within 10 days.

Hundreds of U.S. contractors are working with the two companies to provide support and advice for the Iraqi air force after Iraq purchased F-16 jet fighters from the United States.

Balad air base, located in Salahuddin, some 80 km north of Baghdad, was hit last week by three mortar shells without any casualties.

The reports came amid rising tensions in the Middle East between the United States and Iran. The U.S. have blamed Iran for being behind several attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf, which Iran have refuted.

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