WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has ordered all non-emergency staff to leave the US Consulate in the Iraqi city of Basra, the State Department said in a press release.

"Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo has made the determination to place Consulate Basrah on ordered departure," the release said on Friday.

Pompeo in a separate statement cited threats from Iran as the reason for effectively closing the US diplomatic mission in Basra.

"Threats to our personnel and facilities in Iraq from the Government of Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, and from militias facilitated by and under the control and direction of the Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani have increased over the past several weeks," the statement said. Pompeo said that the US diplomatic missions in Iraq had been hit by Iran-backed militants’ indirect fire in the past 24 hours.

"There have been repeated incidents of indirect fire from elements of those militias directed at our Consulate General in Basrah and our Embassy in Baghdad, including within the past twenty-four hours," he said.

Pompeo also said he had informed Tehran that the United States will hold Iran accountable for any damage to or injury at the US diplomatic missions in Iraq.

"I have advised the government of Iran that the United States will hold Iran directly responsible for any harm to Americans or to our diplomatic facilities in Iraq or elsewhere and whether perpetrated by Iranian forces directly or by associated proxy militias," he said.

The US State Department pointed out that the US Embassy in Baghdad would continue to provide services to individuals in and around Basra.

The United States is still "strongly" committed to supporting Iraqis in the southern provinces and the rest of the country, the release said.

Basra has been gripped by mass protests since early September over shortages of drinking water and electricity. The Iraqi government called in the military to maintain order after demonstrations turned violent and led to multiple deaths and injuries among civilians.

The State Department currently has a travel advisory Level 4 for Iraq, advising US citizens not to travel to the country due to terrorism and armed conflict.