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STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. forces have begun arriving in Morocco, which has recently been plagued by terrorist attacks, for the annual exercise African Lion.

About 300 troops — Marines and sailors from Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment based in Port Hueneme, Calif., and detachments from 4th Marine Logistics Group and 4th Medical Battalion — will train with their Moroccan counterparts.

Moroccan and U.S. officers are scheduled to plan a practice-attack exercise, while their troops will train on infantry tactics such as the firing of small weapons and mortars.

At the same time, members of the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command and Utah Army and Air National Guard will work in local communities, giving medical check-ups and dental exams, and filling prescriptions and fitting residents for eyeglasses.

The exercise will be held in and around the Camp Draa Training Area near Tan-Tan in the southern part of the country, and is scheduled to end about April 30.

African Lion is being coordinated by the Stuttgart-based U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe. The staff there has been working to get people and equipment to the various sites.

“The fact that we can get troops on the ground is not an easy thing to do,” said Gunnery Sgt. Donald Preston, a Marine spokesman.

“To carry it out, meet all the requirements logistically, to coordinate with the different agencies, the Moroccan Embassy and (ministry of defense), validates that we can move forces into a foreign country and successfully conduct a mission.”

Terrorist activity has recently flared in Morocco, the site of five suicide bombings in May 2003. Twice in the past week, bombers have struck in the northern port city of Casablanca.

On Saturday, two suicide bombers blew themselves up near U.S. diplomatic buildings, killing themselves and wounding one woman.

On Tuesday, three bombers detonated bombs as police closed in on them, killing one police officer and injuring 21 people. A fourth suspect was shot and killed by police while fumbling with his explosives, officials said.

Also, on Wednesday in neighboring Algeria, two suicide bombers killed 33 people in the capital of Algiers.


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