IRAQ: Filipino Workers Urged to Leave Iraq
Government officials on Sunday urged about 6,000 Filipino workers to immediately leave Iraq after a foiled kidnapping injured two Filipinos, stressing that the situation there remains very dangerous for foreign workers.
Five Filipinos who had decided to return home because of sporadic mortar attacks on the U.S. military camp where they worked as food servers were en route Saturday to Baghdad's airport when their cars were blocked by suspected kidnappers, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.
Armed bodyguards escorting the Filipinos returned fire and drove toward a police station amid a heavy exchange of fire, prompting the kidnappers to withdraw.
One of the Filipinos, Francisco Luz, was wounded by gunfire and another sustained bruises, according to a Philippine diplomat in Baghdad, Eric Endaya.
"Their guards fought valiantly to prevent them from being abducted," Endaya said in a statement.
The five Filipinos were due home Monday, he said.
Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo, citing the attack, called on all Filipino workers in Iraq "to now consider their immediate repatriation to the Philippines in view of the dangerous security situation there."
He said the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad would help returning Filipinos get flights.
The Philippines banned the deployment of workers to Iraq following a flare-up of violence there last year, but hundreds defied the ban and entered the country in search of jobs.
About 6,000 Filipinos currently work there, mostly as maintenance workers and cooks in U.S. military camps scattered across Iraq.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the early withdrawal of a token Filipino peacekeeping contingent there last year, despite strong opposition from Washington, to secure the release of Filipino truck driver Angelo dela Cruz, who was threatened with beheading by insurgents.
Another Filipino worker, Robert Tarongoy, was kidnapped in November and remains in the hands of suspected insurgents.
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