A senior Estonian Defence Forces colonel serving in Iraq's capital Baghdad was taken to Kuwait on Tuesday night, while the remaining six Estonian soldiers stayed stationed in Iraq.
Colonel Tõnu Miil serves as a senior staff officer at the Operation Inherent Resolve headquarters in Baghdad but was moved to Kuwait on Tuesday evening.
Speaking over the phone, Miil said: "We flew by night. Most of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) in Baghdad's Green Zone decided to move to Kuwait and it has been done over several days. I arrived in Kuwait early on Wednesday morning and the OIR headquarters are being re-organized here."
Miil said Tuesday night in Baghdad was relatively calm and nothing remarkable happened on the streets. But the situation in Iraq as a whole has become much more tense since last night's missile attack on a U.S. base, he said. The attack is seen as a response to the killing of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani by the U.S. on Friday
"Today there are very clear indications that they were organized and led by Iran. This means that the overall situation has become much more tense," he said, adding the situation in Kuwait, where he is the only Estonian officer, is calm.
"We will be re-establishing the headquarters in the coming days and re-starting our work. Moving the headquarters is all about keeping people safe. The Estonian boys at Al-Asad base are engaged in maintaining security. The boys are all ok. But should the units leave Iraq? Rather, they are fortifying the positions they hold," he said.
The remaining six Estonian men are currently in Baghdad, approximately 250 kilometers from the U.S. Al-Asad Air Base where they are usually stationed. During last night's attack, they were not at the base and none were injured.
Tensions between Iran, Iraq, and the US have risen in the region following the killing of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani by the US on Friday.
Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' Quds Force foreign operations arm, was killed in a US drone attack in Baghdad, Iraq.
The strike also killed the deputy head of Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi, a network of mostly Shiite factions close to Iran and incorporated into the Baghdad government's security forces.
The international military Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq is led by the U.S. and is comprised of a coalition of allied troops from different countries.
Minister of Defence Jüri Luik said on Tuesday the work of the Estonian Defence Forces in Iraq has been suspended as tensions between the US, Iran, and Iraq rise, and any future decisions will be made in cooperation with allies.
Editor: Helen Wright