U.S. forces prepare to evacuate contractors from Iraqi base - military sources
TIKRIT, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S.
TIKRIT, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. forces are preparing to evacuate hundreds of staff working for Lockheed Martin Corp and Sallyport Global from an Iraqi military base where they work as contractors, three Iraqi military sources said on Friday.
Nearly 400 contractors from the two firms were getting ready to leave Balad military base, which hosts U.S. forces some 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, over "potential security threats." Their departure was imminent, the sources said.
The sources did not give any details about the security threats.
The sprawling Balad base was hit by three mortar shells last week. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.
Two other Iraqi bases hosting U.S. forces have been hit by rockets in the past week in unclaimed attacks. On Wednesday, a rocket attack hit near a site used by U.S. energy company Exxon Mobil near the southern city of Basra.
Local officials blamed Iran-backed Shi'ite militias for the Basra incident. Iran has not commented on the Iraq incidents but has strongly rejected accusations by Washington that it was behind several attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf in recent weeks.
The uptick in violence comes amid rising regional tension between the United States and Iran.
Washington has ramped up sanctions pressure on Tehran since last year and several violent incidents in the Gulf have been blamed on the rising tension.
President Donald Trump on Friday said he had called off a U.S. strike on Iran at the last minute.
In Iraq, Iran backs several Shi'ite Muslim militias which have positions close to U.S. military installations.
Those militias have not publicly commented on the recent incidents.
Sunni extremist group Islamic State is also trying to stage a comeback in Iraq and has mostly used hit-and-run insurgency tactics against Iraqi forces in recent months.
(Reporting by Ghazwan Hassan and Ahmed Rasheed in BaghdadWriting by John DavisonEditing by Leslie Adler and Cynthia Osterman)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.