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The United States warned its citizens Saturday to avoid non-essential travel to Thailand and began evacuating non-essential embassy staff and families due to unrest in the country.

The State Department said in a statement it would allow non-essential US personnel and their dependents to leave Bangkok if they chose due to escalating violence.

“US citizens should defer all travel to Bangkok and defer all non-essential travel to the rest of Thailand,” a statement said.

“The Department of State has authorized the departure of all non-emergency US government personnel and eligible family members from Bangkok,” the statement added.

The announcement came following two days of street battles between soldiers and anti-government “Red Shirts,” which caused fatalities and injuries. The military declared one area of Bangkok a “live fire zone” as troops struggled to regain control.

Scenes of urban warfare erupted on the southern and northern fringes of the Red Shirts’ sprawling encampment in the heart of Bangkok, after the army moved in Thursday to seal off the area.

The United States Thursday closed its embassy in Bangkok and said it was “very concerned” about the violence between the Thai government and protesters there.

US embassy personnel who live in affected areas are being relocated to housing outside of the affected areas, the State Department said.

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