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EGYPT: Pentagon moving warships, preparing for possible evacuations

February 4, 2011 |  5:55 pm

Ship The Pentagon is moving U.S. warships and other military assets to make sure it is prepared in case evacuation of U.S. citizens from Egypt becomes necessary, officials said Friday.

The Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship carrying 700 to 800 troops from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and the Ponce have arrived in the Red Sea, putting them off Egypt’s shores in case the situation worsens.

Pentagon officials emphasized that military intervention in Egypt was not being contemplated and that the warships were being moved only for contingency purposes in case evacuations became necessary.

In addition to the Marines, the Kearsarge normally carries around four dozen helicopters and harrier jets that would permit evacuations and other humanitarian operations, the officials said. More than 1,000 Marines from the Kearsarge were sent to Afghanistan last month on a temporary deployment, leaving roughly one-third still aboard, officials said.

In addition, the aircraft carrier Enterprise is in the eastern Mediterranean. The Pentagon originally announced that the carrier was heading through the Suez Canal for the Arabian Gulf, but the crisis in Egypt appears to have prompted a decision to keep it in the Mediterranean at least temporarily.

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Photo: The aircraft carrier Enterprise enters the Tagus River at Lisbon, Portugal, Jan. 27. The Enterprise Carrier Strike Group had completed its passage across the Atlantic to begin a deployment in support of U.S. troops in the Middle East. Credit: Manuel de Almeida/EPA

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