The US Defence Department has moved nearly 200 Marines to a U.S. base in southern Italy to be able to respond to what a Pentagon spokesman described as a deteriorating security situation in North Africa.
Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters on Wednesday the Marines arrived at Naval Air Station Sigonella on Tuesday at the request of the State Department, with orders to protect American embassies and U.S. personnel across the region and beyond, if needed, reports the American Forces Press Service.
“We’ve forward positioned them to Sigonella, where they’ll be able to respond more quickly to any crisis in North Africa,” Warren said. He did not say where in particular the threat was coming from, but instead called the move a prudent reaction to general unrest in the region.
Six aircraft — two KC-130 Hercules and four MV-22 Ospreys — accompanied the Marines, who are based at Moron Air Base, Spain. “These forces are capable of moving anywhere,” Warren added.
The deployment comes a week after the State Department suspended operations at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen because of recent attacks against Western targets, as well as an increase in attacks in recent weeks by the Boko Haram terrorist group in Nigeria, which continues to hold more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped last month.
Unarmed U.S. surveillance aircraft continue to assist Nigerian authorities in the search for the girls.