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Japanese Embassy officials in Iraq were ordered Friday to leave the nation amid heightening tension over a possible U.S.-led military attack.

The Foreign Ministry issued a travel warning last month, urging Japanese nationals to evacuate the country. But embassy officials stayed put, and another 16 people ignored the warning, including those wishing to serve as “human shields.”

Of the civilians, nine have been persuaded to leave the country. The other seven, including freelance journalists and members of citizens’ groups, are still there, the ministry said.

The figure does not include Japanese who are working for the United Nations, the media and nongovernmental organizations who have means of leaving the country, the ministry said.

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