Bahrain deemed too dangerous for U.S. dependants' return

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

ABU DHABI The United States has told about 1,000 dependants of military and defense personnel that they won't be allowed to return to Bahrain.

Two months after they left Bahrain, the dependants of U.S. Fifth Fleet and the Defense Department personnel have been informed that the kingdom remains too dangerous for their return. In July, the dependants were told they were being evacuated from Bahrain for only 30 days.

In September, however, officials said the dependants were told that they should find permanent residence in the United States. Most of them had been living in a naval base in Virginia, Middle East Newsline reported.

"The status is not temporary for these folks," U.S. Naval Forces Central Command spokesman Cmdr. Jamie Graybeal said. "They won't be coming back to Bahrain. But it does not mean that a decision has been taken that family members won't live in Bahrain again."

Officials said the latest notification to the U.S. dependants arrived on Sept. 2. They said that 940 U.S. dependants were affected by the Pentagon decision and that military personnel stationed in Bahrain could request a transfer to reunite with their families.

The U.S. Navy has launched a new rotation arrangement to enable Fifth Fleet warship personnel to leave Bahrain every six months. At the same time, new military and personnel were told not to bring their families with them to Bahrain, which had been the only place in the Gulf Arab region where sailors could arrive with their dependants.

"The situation in Bahrain was unlike any other in the region," Fifth Fleet commander Vice Adm. David Nichols told a briefing in Manama on Sunday.

"We had sailors and Marines who were forward-based who were allowed to bring their families with them. We don't have the same sort of situation in any other country out here. But I hope we can have some number of military families back in Bahrain."

Around 350 of the dependants were students who had attended the Pentagon-sponsored Bahrain School. The school opened in late August with a 40 percent reduction in enrollment.

In July, dependants of U.S. embassy personnel were allowed to leave Bahrain. In late August, the personnel were told they could return to the kingdom.

Nichols said the threat against Americans remains despite the arrests of insurgents in such countries as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. Nichols said the arrests deterred Al Qaida-aligned attacks.

"There have been some significant successes in terms of locating terrorists over the last three or four months," Nichols said. "I believe it has deterred some of the immediate terrorist threat. But on the other hand terrorists are still out there. They are still very determined."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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