Nineteen Filipino employees of an upscale restaurant in Baghdad, Iraq, have asked to be repatriated two months after they nearly became casualties in two suicide car bomb explosions, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday.
Three of the 19 were repatriated on July 16 and arrived in Manila on July 18, the DFA said.
"The rest will be repatriated before the end of the month," it added.
Philippine Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Elmer G. Cato said several other Filipinos working in other establishments in the Iraqi capital have also reached out to request the assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in their repatriation.
"A number of our kababayans here in Baghdad approached the Embassy and said they want to go home because they no longer want to unnecessarily worry their families in the Philippines,” he said.
There are an estimated 1,500 Filipinos working in Iraq, the DFA said.
Car bomb attacks
Most of those who asked to be repatriated are waiters of a prominent restaurant who were billeted at a hotel in Baghdad’s downtown Karrada District, where a suicide car bomber detonated his vehicle on May 5, the DFA said
The vehicle exploded just five minutes after most of the Filipinos staying there and in an adjoining building have left for work, it added. Several other Filipinos were inside the hotel when it was hit by the blast that killed four people and wounded several others.
Later that month, another suicide bomb explosion hit two five-star hotels in Baghdad, including one that employed 21 Filipinos, killing six people and wounding several others.
A bomb that detonated near one of the two hotels a few weeks earlier also resulted in several casualties, the DFA said.
Alert level 4
The attacks prompted the Philippine Embassy to reiterate its call for Filipinos in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq to seriously consider returning to the Philippines and offered to facilitate their repatriation.
A total of 42 Filipinos have now been repatriated under this program.
Manila placed most of Iraq under Alert Level 4 (Mandatory Repatriation) after the Islamic State captured the city of Mosul last year. Except for the Kurdistan region in the north, which is under Alert Level 2, most of Iraq remains under Alert Level 4 due to the volatile security environment in the country.
Last month, the embassy issued an advisory urging Filipinos in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq to exercise extreme caution and to limit their movements following a series of bombings and other violent incidents in the past weeks.
Filipinos working in Iraq are also being urged to register with the embassy so that they could easily be contacted in case of emergency. —KBK, GMA News