The U.S. women's ski team abruptly withdrew from the World Cup competition scheduled this weekend and returned home, the event's press chief said.

The U.S. men's team also withdrew from World Cup competition in Switzerland Thursday, organizers said.The three Americans, Hilary Lindh, Kristin Krone and Alison Fenn, were to race in the World Cup downhill event here this weekend.

The women's team left their hotel early Thursday, Jacques Belin said.

He did not give a reason for the team's departure, but it came only a few hours after a multinational force launched a series of punishing bomb attacks on Iraqi positions in Iraq and Kuwait.

With the start of the war in the gulf Thursday morning, Americans abroad are increasingly concerned over their safety as they could be targets of terrorist attacks.

Belin said he did not know if the women would take part at the World Championships in Saalbach, Austria next week. No other teams withdrew, he said.

The U.S. men's team also suddenly left Wengen, Switzerland, where they were to take part in downhill, slalom and combined events Saturday and Sunday, organizers said.

No official reason was given for the men's withdrawal, but organizers said they decided to leave after learning of the start of the war in the gulf Thursday morning.