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Tuesday, August 18, 1998 Published at 21:13 GMT 22:13 UK

World: South Asia

US evacuees flown out of Pakistan

US Ambassador Thomas Simons (right): "Sad day"

The US Government has evacuated more than 200 people from Pakistan, after officials decided to withdraw non-essential embassy staff in the wake of the bombings of the US embassies in East Africa.

The evacuees - mainly diplomats and their families - were flown out of Islamabad and Karachi.

The State Department has urged other Americans in Pakistan to consider leaving because of what it calls a very serious threat to Americans.

The first batch of about 180 people left on a special charter flight from Islamabad amid unusually-tight security measures.

An armed squad of Pakistani police escorted the convoy of departing US citizens to an air-force base near the city's main international airport.

'We do not want any more dead'

The US Ambassador to Pakistan, Thomas Simons, described it as a sad day but said there were no plans to close down the embassy and the three consulates in the country.

US ambassador Thomas Simons: "These are not Pakistan-specific threats"
He said the evacuation was taking place because of a general pattern of threat to American interests, caused by the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in which more than 250 people died.

"I think we have to take that seriously. We certainly do not want any more dead, in Pakistan," Mr Simons said.

"But these are not Pakistan-specific threats. It is a general pattern of threat that we are responding to."

The opposition Pakistan Peoples' Party expressed its concern at the move, describing it as an indictment of the government's inability to protect foreign nationals.

But despite the warning by the US State Department, most of the 6,000 American citizens working in Pakistan, have decided to stay.

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