Marines again moved to Italy as Libya falters
For a second time in five months, a group of rapid-reaction Marines has repositioned from Spain to southern Italy amid deteriorating security conditions in Libya.
A group of 200 Marines from the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response moved earlier this week from their base in Moron, Spain, to Naval Air Station Sigonella.
The move came after U.S. commandos on Saturday captured Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, a suspected al Qaida leader, in Tripoli. Libya’s transitional government denied knowledge of the raid, calling it a “kidnapping of a Libyan citizen” on the streets of the capital.
American officials said however that the Libyan government had agreed to the operation. As a result, Libya’s prime minister, Ali Zeidan, was kidnapped, apparently in retaliation, early Thursday by one of the country’s militias, and released later that day.
The kidnapping was illustrative of Libya’s descent toward anarchy two years after the revolution that ended Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s four decades of dictatorship, experts said. It could also deter Libyan officials from working with U.S. efforts to apprehend terrorism suspects.
The Marines are part of a unit trained to respond to crises that include embassy reinforcement, and support to evacuations, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel,” said Maj. Lauren G. Schulz, a spokeswoman for U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Africa and U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe.
The 550-strong Marine MAGTF was formed after a September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The attack exposed AFRICOM’s lack of crisis-response capability.
The unit, with MV-22 Ospreys and other aircraft, has the airlift capability to deliver Marines to hotspots across Africa.
The last time the group of 200 relocated from Spain to southern Italy was in May, when unrest in Libya resulted in the evacuation of Western diplomatic personnel.