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The U.S. military in Bahrain may evacuate as many as 1,000 dependents as part of a mandatory relocation ordered by the Department of Defense because of possible terrorist attacks.

Fifth Fleet initially said about 650 military and Department of Defense civilian dependents were affected, but Cmdr. Jamie Graybeal, 5th Fleet spokesman, said Tuesday that it could be higher.

“We are in the process now of working with our 69 individual tenant commands to validate those numbers,” he said in a phone interview from Manama.

The Pentagon announced the temporary relocation, to last for at least 30 days, on Friday.

According to a travel warning on the State Department Web site, “Credible information indicates that extremists ... are planning attacks in Bahrain.”

The warning mentions attacks on Westerners in Saudi Arabia, linked to Bahrain via a 15-mile causeway.

Late last month, Bahrain arrested and quickly released six Islamists for suspected links to al-Qaida.

The relocation decision “was made because of a regional concern about security. It would be inaccurate to attribute this to those six arrests,” Graybeal said.

Everyone initially relocates to Norfolk, Va.

“From Norfolk, it’s their choice,” Graybeal said.

“When things change, people may be allowed to return,” Graybeal added.

One effect of the move is that many base jobs will become vacant.

“Ultimately, we will have to work through the difficulties that arise through those vacancies, but nothing is more important to us than the safety of our family members,” Graybeal said.

Bahrain is also home to a large Department of Defense Dependents Schools facility, attended by more than 700 students.

“We’re waiting now to get some direction from our higher authority in Washington; we still have questions about the nature of the evacuation,” said Harvey Gerry, chief of staff for DODDS-Europe.

He said it wasn’t clear whether the school’s approximately 65 staff members, many of whom are on vacation, are required to leave.

The relocation has not affected the threat level condition for the approximately 4,500 military personnel in Bahrain, Graybeal said.

The threat level increased in late May for two weeks, during which time personnel were ordered to avoid off-base places where people gather, including bars and restaurants. It went back to normal in June and has not changed since then, Graybeal said.


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