- Some Marines are moved as part of overall security precautions ahead of 9/11
- The 250 Marines are now three to four hours from Tripoli, Libya
- Others are helping to boost security at various embassies in the region
Scores of U.S. Marines have been moved closer to Libya this week as part of an overall effort to beef up any potential security response, CNN has learned, as the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack approaches along with the first anniversary of the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Two U.S. officials told CNN that in the past few days, 250 combat-ready Marines have moved from their base in Moron, Spain, to the U.S. naval installation at Sigonella, Italy. That would enable them to reach Tripoli, the capital of Libya, in three to four hours in the event of a crisis.
The officials declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information. Another 250 combat-ready Marines remain at Moron for backup.
In addition, about three dozen Marines from a highly specialized embassy guard unit have been sent to augment security at several embassies in the region, one of the officials said. He declined to specify embassy locations due to security concerns. This unit, which can quickly deploy forces, is separate from the regular guard force the Marines provide to embassies around the world.
Both officials emphasized the moves are more focused on the period around 9/11 rather than anything related to a potential military strike against Syria. Although no direct threats about 9/11 are known to have been made, the current "high threat" potential timeframe both officials described is likely to last for at least another week. The U.S. embassies in Tripoli and in Sanaa, Yemen, are already guarded by a more heavily armed Marine force than in other countries.
In addition, the USS San Antonio with, 300 combat Marines on board, is staying in the eastern Mediterranean to be ready to respond if needed.