U.S. deploys warship with marines near Libya
Libyan Islamist militant leader warns U.S. against interference
The United States is deploying an amphibious assault vessel carrying 1,000 marines near the Libya coast in case the U.S. embassy must be evacuated, a U.S. defense official said Tuesday.
The USS Bataan was to be in the area "in a matter of days," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The move was described as "precautionary" in case conditions in Libya, where militia battles have plunged the country into anarchy, worsen and require the embassy's evacuation.
The State Department said last week that the embassy in Tripoli was operating normally despite an offensive launched against Islamist militias by a dissident general, Khalifa Haftar.
In addition to the 1,000 marines on board, the Bataan is equipped with several helicopters.
Also read: Old CIA links return to haunt Libya’s Haftar
The United States also has available 250 marines, seven tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft and three refueling aircraft in Sigonella, Italy.
The precautions come amid ongoing controversy over a September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in which four Americans, including ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed.
The leader of Libya's Ansar al-sharia militant group in Benghazi, meanwhile, warned against U.S. interference in the country's crisis.
Mohamed Zahawi, head of the Benghazi brigade of Ansar al-Sharia, accused the U.S. government of backing renegade former general Haftar, who has begun a self-declared campaign to purge Libya of Islamist militants.
"We remind America, if they intervene, of their defeats in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, because they would face in Libya something much worse," he said in a statement. "It was America who urged Haftar to turn the country towards war and bloodshed."
[With AFP and Reuters]
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