LONDON Aug 8 The British government told its
citizens to leave parts of Iraqi Kurdistan, including the
regional capital Arbil, on Friday as the sweeping advance of
Islamist militants brought them closer to Kurdish territory.
The government said the security situation could deteriorate
quickly after fighting in the last two days to the southwest of
Arbil, where many Western oil workers and executives are based,
so British citizens in the regional capital of 1.5 million
people should leave immediately.
"This follows attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the
Levant (ISIL) on towns to the Southwest of Erbil (Arbil) on 6-7
August," the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said on its
"If you're currently in these areas you should leave now.
The security situation in the Kurdistan Region could deteriorate
Islamic State, previously known as ISIL, considers
non-Muslims and adherents to Shi'ite Islam as apostates. In many
towns it has captured the group has made a stark offer: convert,
flee or die.
U.S. President Barack Obama said he had authorised limited
bombing to prevent "genocide" and blunt the onslaught of Sunni
radicals who have advanced to within a half-hour drive from
Arbil, though no airstrikes had yet been seen on Friday.
London-listed energy companies operating in Iraqi Kurdistan,
including Genel and Afren, said on Friday they
were starting to evacuate non-essential staff from the
The British Foreign Office said it was now advising against
travel to the Kurdish provinces of Arbil, Suleymania and Dohuk,
extending its travel advisory already in place on many provinces
in southern Iraq.
"The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the rest
of Iraq, including the remainder of the Kurdistan region," the
Foreign Office statement said.
(Reporting by David Sheppard; Editing by Susan Fenton)