The United States is ordering the families of American armed forces members to leave Bahrain, following intelligence reports about possible terrorist attacks in the Gulf state.

U.S. Defense Department officials say the mandatory evacuation order also applies to non-essential members of the military services stationed in Bahrain, which is the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. Reports indicate the evacuation orders could affect several hundred people.

Bahrain, a small group of islands in the Persian Gulf, is linked by a causeway to Saudia Arabia, which has been hit by a recent wave of suicide bombings and attacks against foreigners, all believed to have been carried out by militants linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network led by Saudi-born Osama bin Laden.

The U.S. State Department has issued a separate warning about possible terrorist activity in Bahrain, and is urging American citizens to consider leaving the Gulf state.