Mon, Jul 05, 2004 - Page 6 News List

US embassy in Bahrain sending families home

`OASIS OF SAFETY'?After six terrorism suspects were freed for lack of evidence, the US decided a threat remained and issued a series of warnings

REUTERS , WASHINGTON

The US Embassy's Independence Day celebration in Bahrain was canceled and family members of embassy staff and nonessential workers were asked to leave on Saturday, a day after a mandatory evacuation order for other Americans.

A US Embassy worker in Manama said the embassy canceled July 4 celebrations, which were scheduled for Tuesday at a hotel in the capital, "due to security concerns related to the advisory."

The US government has issued warnings about the Gulf kingdom since Thursday, despite Bahrain's prime minister calling his country secure and able to protect its foreign residents.

Bahrain is home to the US Navy Fifth Fleet and is linked by a causeway to Saudi Arabia, which has been hit by a wave of attacks against Westerners.

"The Department of State warns US citizens to defer travel to Bahrain. American citizens currently in Bahrain are urged to consider departing," the US Embassy said in an advisory on Thursday.

"The department has received information that extremists are planning attacks against US and other Western interests ... [and] that extremists remain at large."

The new warning, issued on Saturday night, said families of embassy staff and nonessential employees should consider voluntary evacuation, a State Department spokeswoman said.

The Department of Defense issued a mandatory evacuation order on Friday for nonemergency employees and families of American military personnel.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved a "temporary relocation" of at least 30 days.

The move came less than two weeks after Bahrain arrested six men on suspicion of supporting al-Qaeda and planning attacks in the Gulf state, but then freed them because of lack of evidence.

Bahrain's largely liberal, tolerant society and less restrictive lifestyle make it a haven for foreigners, but it has seen several violent protests against US policies.

Bahrain urged Americans to stay. "Bahrain has been and still is an oasis of safety, security and stability ... and is capable of protecting the interests of all individuals and institutions that it hosts," said Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa.

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