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Pentagon orders diplomatic and military families to leave Turkey

Washington:  The US will withdraw virtually all family members of US troops and diplomats from its installations in Turkey, US officials have said, citing security concerns as the campaign against the Islamic State continues.

A US Navy plane at Incirlik Air Base, in Adana, in  south-eastern Turkey last year.
A US Navy plane at Incirlik Air Base, in Adana, in south-eastern Turkey last year. Photo: AP

The military decision was announced on Tuesday on the blog for the US European Command, which also instituted travel restrictions in Brussels last week after the terrorist attacks that killed 38 people, including three suicide bombers. At least four Americans died and about a dozen more were wounded, including an Air Force officer who was stationed in Europe and members of his family.

"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," Air Force General Philip Breedlove, the commander of the European Command, said in a statement.

US Defence Secretary Ash Carter at the Pentagon in January.
US Defence Secretary Ash Carter at the Pentagon in January.  Photo: AP

In a separate advisory, the State Department said it had ordered the departure of family members of officials posted to the US Consulate in Adana, near the Mediterranean coast in south-central Turkey, as well as in Izmir and Mugla provinces on the western coast. Official travel in Turkey has been restricted to "mission critical" only. The advisory warns that foreign and US tourists have been "explicitly targeted" by terrorist organisations and should avoid any travel "in close proximity to the Syrian border".

Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said about 670 people will be affected by the move, while about 100 more in Ankara and Istanbul will be allowed to stay.

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The move is an escalation of the US government's efforts to protect family members in Turkey. Last year, the Defence Department urged hundreds of family members to leave voluntarily but did not require it.

The decision affects military families who are stationed in the cities of Adana, Izmir and Mugla. Adana is home to Incirlik Air Base, which has been used to carry out airstrikes against the Islamic State. Izmir is about  about 320 kilometres south-west of Istanbul on Turkey's western coast and home to an Air Force installation. Mugla province is home to Aksaz Naval Base, on the Aegean Coast.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara in February.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara in February. Photo: AP

The decision comes a few weeks after the third bombing in Turkey's capital, Ankara, since October. Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, also was hit with bombings this month and in January. Both bombings in Istanbul were linked to Islamic State militants.

Turkish officials have linked the October bombing in Ankara with the Islamic State, but the Ankara attacks in February and March have been claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, a nationalist militant group that wants to establish a separate Kurdish state in south-eastern Turkey. The group is considered a breakaway group from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been designated a terrorist organisation by the State Department.

Washington Post