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Thousands of American sailors and marines reach the Red Sea after tensions in Iran

The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, pictured in New York Harbor in May 2022 (Angela Weiss)

More than 3,000 US military personnel have arrived in the Red Sea aboard two warships as part of a larger deployment following Iran’s seizure of tankers, the US Navy said Monday.

The U.S. sailors and Marines entered the Red Sea on Sunday after passing through the Suez Canal in a pre-announced deployment, the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet said in a statement.

They came aboard the warships USS Bataan and USS Carter Hall, giving the Fifth Fleet “greater flexibility and naval capability,” the statement said.

Iran has seized or attempted to take over nearly 20 international-flagged vessels in the region in the past two years, according to the US military.

USS Bataan is an amphibious assault ship capable of carrying both fixed-wing and rotary aircraft, as well as landing craft. The USS Carter Hall, a dock landing ship, transports Marines and their equipment and lands them.

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“These units add significant operational flexibility and capability as we work … to deter destabilizing activity and ease regional tensions caused by Iran’s harassment and seizure of merchant ships,” the spokesman for the Fifth Fleet said, Commander Tim Hawkins, told AFP.

The deployment comes after Washington said its forces blocked two July 5 attempts by Iran to seize commercial tankers in international waters off the coast of Oman.

Iran’s maritime services said one of the two tankers, the Bahamian-flagged Richmond Voyager, collided with an Iranian ship, seriously injuring five crew members, the state news agency IRNA said.

In April and early May, Iran seized two oil tankers in regional waters within a week.

Those incidents came after Israel and the United States blamed Iran in November for what they said was a drone attack on a tanker operated by an Israeli-owned company transporting gas oil off the coast of Oman.

The US announced last month that it would deploy a destroyer, F-35 and F-16 fighter jets, along with the Amphibious Readiness Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit, to the Middle East to deter Iran from seizing ships in the Gulf. to take.

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Last week, a US official told AFP that Washington is also preparing to deploy marines and naval personnel aboard commercial tankers passing through the Gulf as an additional layer of defense.


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