US orders families of personnel out of southern Turkey citing security concerns
REUTERS photoThe Pentagon and the U.S. State Department have ordered the families of U.S. troops and civilian personnel stationed in the provinces of İzmir, Adana and Muğla to leave the region, citing concerns over their security.
“This decision allows for the deliberate, safe return of family members from these areas due to continued security concerns in the region,” the Pentagon said in a statement on March 29.
The order also encompassed Adana, where the İncirlik Air Base, a key base in the efforts of the coalition fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria, is stationed.
“We understand this is disruptive to our military families, but we must keep them safe and ensure the combat effectiveness of our forces to support our strong ally Turkey in the fight against terrorism,” U.S. European Command head General Philip Breedlove said.
Military officials said the order was prompted by “continued security concerns” rather than a specific threat.
In all, 670 dependents of U.S. military personnel – as well as 287 pets – were expected to be evacuated although the U.S. Consulate in Adana will remain open as usual.
The order followed a September 2015 recommendation to leave the country, but there was no mandatory order at the time.
The State Department also restricted official visits to Turkey as “mission-critical” travel only, while the country re-issued a travel warning to all Americans in Turkey.
“The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey and to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey,” the State Department said.
“Foreign and U.S. tourists have been explicitly targeted by international and indigenous terrorist organizations,” it added, cautioning Americans to avoid areas close to the Syrian border.
Turkey has been under repeated threats by militant organizations, with Britain’s Sky TV reporting March 28 that ISIL militants had advanced plans to “murder Jewish children in Turkey, targeting kindergartens, schools and youth centers,” creating concern among Turkey’s Jews as well as Israel.
In a phone conversation with the president of the Turkey’s Jewish community, İshak İbrahimzadeh, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said he was concerned over reports of threats to the community.
“We are very worried about the information we are receiving and are following the situation closely with the relevant authorities in Israel and Turkey,” Rivlin said in a statement, although the offices of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkey’s Foreign Ministry have declined to comment on the Sky report.