U.S. Fifth Fleet evacuates families based in Bahrain

Thursday, July 8, 2004

ABU DHABI The U.S. Fifth Fleet has decided to send home families of about 3,000 sailors and other military personnel based in Bahrain.

U.S. officials said the Fifth Fleet's order came amid intelligence reports that Al Qaida or related insurgents were planning a major attack against U.S. or Western targets in the Gulf Arab kingdom. Bahrain is linked by road to neighboring Saudi Arabia, which has been the target of an Al Qaida campaign that began in May 2003.

This was the first mandatory evacuation of U.S. nationals from Bahrain, a major non-NATO U.S. ally and member of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Bahrain hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, which contains about 3,000 military personnel.

On July 1, the State Department warned Americans against traveling to Bahrain and authorized the voluntary departure of non-essential staff from the U.S. embassy in Manama, Middle East Newsline reported. The department cited information of an Islamic insurgency attack in Bahrain.

Officials said U.S. military personnel would not be evacuated from Bahrain. But they said the headquarters of the Fifth Fleet has been placed on alert and military personnel were banned from occupying more than 25 percent of the apartments of any residential building in Bahrain as part of an effort to avoid becoming an Al Qaida target.

Cmdr. James Graybeal, spokesman for the U.S. Fifth Fleet, said about 650 people, comprising 35 families, would be affected by the order to leave Bahrain. Graybeal identified those leaving as relatives of service members as well as Defense Department staffers.

"We are in the process of executing the departure, which will happen in the next few days," Graybeal said.

Officials said the mandatory departure from Bahrain would last at least 30 days.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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