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Thursday, March 17, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

U.S. Navy: Fifth Fleet operations 'remain normal', evacuation optional

WASHINGTON — The United States has reported that defense personnel and their families can leave Bahrain.


The Defense Department has approved the departure of civilian personnel and their families from Bahrain amid unprecedented Shi'ite unrest. The Pentagon said the families of U.S. Navy personnel as well as non-essential civilian staffers could volunteer to leave immediately.

"Families of military personnel and DoD civilian employees are authorized to voluntarily depart Bahrain due to the ongoing demonstrations and continued unrest," the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet said.

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In a statement, the Navy said the Pentagon approval was relayed on March 15. The Fifth Fleet, based in Manama, was said to contain up to 3,000 personnel.

"This announcement aligns with the U.S. Department of State Travel Warning permitting the authorized departure of U.S. Embassy Manama eligible family members issued late March 14 and will remain in effect until the Department of State terminates the authorized departure," the Navy said.

The statement came amid reports by Western diplomats that many or most of the U.S. Navy personnel have already left Bahrain this month. The diplomats said the staffers left for Oman as part of an exercise in the Gulf region.

"Operations at U.S. Fifth Fleet and NSA Bahrain remain normal, and U.S. service members and family members are not being evacuated," the Navy said.

Britain, a key partner in U.S. security efforts in the Gulf, has also joined in the Western evacuation of Bahrain. The British Foreign Office has told the estimated 5,000 nationals in Bahrain to begin arriving at the international airport in Manama on March 17.

So far, neither the Pentagon nor the U.S. Navy has reported attacks on American personnel in Bahrain. The Shi'ite protest campaign has included demonstrations in front of the U.S. embassy in Manama.

"The demonstrations have not been directed at the U.S. Navy or U.S. personnel, and there have been no reports of injuries to U.S. citizens," the Navy said. "The authorized departure is designed to facilitate the departure of those families who choose to depart Bahrain."

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