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Reviewed: 09 September 2013, 13:25 NZDT
Still current at: 07 December 2013
There is high risk to your security in the Kurdistan region of Iraq (provinces of Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah), due to the threat from terrorism and criminal activity and we advise against all tourist and other non-essential travel.While there have been no significant security incidents in the Kurdistan provinces over the past few years, increasing political tensions between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government have the potential to cause violence to spread beyond these disputed areas, into cities such as Kirkuk and Mossul.
There is extreme risk to your security elsewhere in Iraq due to the ongoing threat from terrorism and significant risk of kidnapping. We advise against all travel. New Zealanders in Iraq should be aware there is the potential for the ongoing conflict in Syria to affect the security situation in Iraq, including beyond the immediate border area.
Terrorism, kidnapping and the hostile security situation present a significant risk to New Zealanders in Iraq. Since March 2013, the intensity and frequency of security incidents and sectarian violence in Iraq has increased. This trend is expected to continue. Attacks continue to target foreigners, Iraqi political figures and those associated with the Iraqi government.
The threat to foreigners, including New Zealanders in Iraq is very high. Any New Zealanders currently in Iraq with concerns for their safety are advised to depart.
New Zealanders who decide to travel to Iraq against our advice should ensure that appropriate personal security protection measures are in place at all times. We strongly recommend you consult a reputable security company (with experience in Iraq), for advice on security arrangements. Security arrangements should be reviewed on a regular basis. Such measures may mitigate the risks to your safety but cannot eliminate them entirely.
There is a continuing high threat from terrorism throughout Iraq. Terrorists and anti-government militants continue to conduct frequent and lethal attacks on awide range of targets in Iraq, including inside the International Zone in Baghdad. There have been attacks on the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations, non-governmental organisations, journalists, foreign contractors and visitors to Iraq, as well Iraqi civilians. Targets have included places where foreigners congregate such as hotels and restaurants in addition to mosques, churches, public transport, police stations, army recruiting centres, Iraqi government buildings and security forces and party political offices. Terrorist attacks can occur without warning at anytime, anywhere in Iraq.
While there have been no recent attacks, civilian and military aircraft have been attacked by missiles and small arms fire in the past and there have been security breaches at Baghdad International Airport. Further attacks cannot be ruled out.
Kidnapping for ransom and the hostage taking of foreign nationals by extremists for political gain is a significant problem throughout Iraq, but particularly in Baghdad. Over the past decade, over 200 foreign nationals (including aid workers, security contractors, journalists and soldiers), have been kidnapped. Many hostages have been killed or remain missing. Close security protection is extremely important for those working or moving around Baghdad, but does not mitigate the risk entirely.
New Zealanders in Iraq are advised to avoid any demonstrations and political rallies as they have the potential to turn violent with little warning. Incidents of civil unrest and looting occur from time to time in Iraq. If you are in an area affected by civil unrest, looting or violence, we recommend you keep a low profile, find a safe location, remain indoors and follow any local advice.
Security restrictions like curfews and vehicle bans can be imposed at short notice. We recommend you adhere to any restrictions imposed by the local authorities and seek local advice on any changes to curfews.
Areas of military activity should be avoided at all times, including Iraq's northern border where Turkish and Iranian military forces have conducted operations.
Travel by road in Iraq can be extremely dangerous and we advise against it. There continue to be fatal attacks against both civilian vehicles and military convoys involving roadside bombs and small arms fire. The road between Baghdad and Baghdad International Airport is particularly hazardous, with regular attacks against vehicles carrying military personnel, foreigners and civilians. In addition to the threat from terrorism/kidnapping, there is also an ongoing criminal threat from armed carjacking and robbery.
General Travel Advice
As there is no New Zealand diplomatic presence in Iraq, the ability of the government to assist New Zealand citizens requiring consular assistance is severely limited.
New Zealanders are advised to respect religious and social traditions in Iraq to avoid offending local sensitivities.
New Zealanders travelling or living in Iraq should have comprehensive travel insurance policies in place that include provision for medical evacuation by air. You should check that your travel insurance policy covers travel in Iraq – exclusions may well apply.
New Zealanders in Iraq are strongly advised to register their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.