NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — A group of 41 U.S. Marines arrived in Liberia on Monday to help protect the U.S. Embassy in the embattled West African country, while defense officials confirmed 4,500 sailors and Marines have been ordered to position themselves closer to Liberia.

Members of Marine Corps Security Force Company Europe left Rota on Sunday night and arrived Monday morning, said Capt. Gordon Hume, spokesman for Naval Forces in Europe. The Marines are from the company’s Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team, or FAST, and are equipped to respond on a moment’s notice to boost security in far-flung hot spots.

“They’ll be there to augment the team that’s already down there as well as the Embassy guards that are already at the Embassy,” Hume said.

The group arrived as mortar shells hit the U.S. Embassy in the capital of Monrovia. One or two rounds landed in the U.S. complex as rebels and Liberian government forces battled each other, the Associated Press reported. Three people were injured, including an American journalist.

More than a dozen Marines from Marine Corps Security Force Company Europe left earlier this month with an assessment team of civil affairs specialists. The group — which consists mostly of Navy personnel from bases in Europe — is surveying the country ahead of a possible U.S. peacekeeping force.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed a deployment order over the weekend ordering a three-ship amphibious ready group from its position off the Horn of Africa into the Mediterranean Sea, defense officials said.

That would put the group in a position to get to the west coast of Africa faster, if needed for an evacuation of Americans, peacekeeping or some other mission.

The group, which also includes the USS Nashville, is carrying Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The ships left Norfolk, Va., March 4 and helped support the war in Iraq.

The ships are equipped to provide security, conduct civilian evacuations and provide humanitarian assistance. The USS Iwo Jima has a robust medical facility.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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