Nearly 200 U.S. Marines have been mobilized from Spain to Sicily because of the growing unrest in North Africa. But Pentagon officials cautioned Wednesday there are no plans to deploy them to terror-gripped Nigeria.
The Marines are part of a special-purpose crisis-response team based in southern Spain and formed after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi, Libya. The unit gives the U.S. military assets in the region to respond quickly to crises at embassies and U.S. interests.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said U.S. embassies in North Africa are potential targets, and added that this move was “the new normal” following a request from the State Department.
The Marines arrived at the Naval Air Station Sigonella on Tuesday, and do not have a set time they will stay, officials said. Joining them are six military aircraft.
Security is especially a concern in Nigeria in West Africa, where the Islamist sect Boko Haram has killed hundreds of people in the past several months and is holding nearly 300 girls hostage. But while both manned and unmanned U.S. military aircraft are deployed in surveillance missions over the country, there is “no intention” to use Marines on the ground as part of any rescue effort, Warren said.
A White House spokesman reiterated that point Wednesday, saying that the U.S. is advising Nigerian officials but is “not actively considering the deployment of U.S. forces.”