News National Oz officials withdraw from Iraq

Oz officials withdraw from Iraq

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Australia has begun withdrawing its officials from strife-torn Iraq.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says a number of embassy staff members have been withdrawn from Baghdad due to the deteriorating security situation.

“The Australian embassy remains open with reduced staffing levels,” DFAT says in its latest travel advice.

“We are unlikely to be able to provide consular assistance in Iraq at the current time.”

Islamic militants, spearheaded by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadist group, have taken over a swathe of territory in northern Iraq in an offensive that has brought fighting to within 80km of the capital.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says an “essential core” of embassy staff will remain in place but they will be limited in what they can do for the estimated 90-plus Australians in Iraq.

“Due to the very challenging security environment we are unlikely to be able to provide the level of consular assistance that might be expected,” she told ABC radio.

The Iraqi government on Sunday said it had “regained the initiative” against the militants, claiming to have killed 279 “terrorists” in the previous 24 hours.

Ms Bishop described the situation as very volatile and said it could deteriorate further with little warning.

“But we certainly strongly support the Iraqi government’s ongoing efforts to counter this terrorism that’s taking place within its borders,” she said.