BAGHDAD: The United States embassy in Baghdad on Friday (Jan 3) urged American citizens to leave Iraq "immediately" due to "heightened tensions" following the US killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.
Soleimani as well as Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed in a US strike on Baghdad's international airport that was authorised by US President Donald Trump.
Later on Friday, US issued a travel advisory bringing the heightened risk level to 4, which stands for "Do not travel".
"Do not travel to Iraq due to terrorism, kidnapping and armed conflict," the advisory stated.
In its security alert, the US embassy said: "Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, the US Embassy urges American citizens to heed the January 2020 Travel Advisory and depart Iraq immediately.
"US citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land."
It also urged Americans to avoid going to the US embassy compound in Baghdad.
"Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the US Embassy compound, all public consular operations are suspended until further notice. US citizens should not approach the Embassy," the embassy said.
"The US Consulate General in Erbil is open for visa and American Citizen Services appointments, including passport issuance."
US citizens in Iraq or those concerned about their family in Iraq were advised to contact the Department of State.
Soleimani was a general who was regarded as the second most powerful figure in Iran after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The overnight attack marked a dramatic escalation in a "shadow war" in the Middle East between Iran and the United States and its allies, principally Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Khamenei said harsh revenge awaited the "criminals" who killed Soleimani. His death, though bitter, would double the motivation of the resistance against the United States and Israel, he said.