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US deploys more than 3K sailors, Marines to Middle East following Iran’s targeting of ships

More than 3,000 U.S. sailors and Marines went to the Middle East following the Pentagon's call for more troops there to deter Iran from targeting ships.

The U.S. Navy announced the arrival Monday of more than 3,000 sailors and Marines to the Middle East following a call by the Department of Defense for additional troops after "recent attempts by Iran to seize commercial ships in the CENTCOM area of operations." 

The forces from the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrived in the Middle East on Sunday, according to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (CENTCOM). 

"Amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 50) and dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) entered the Red Sea after transiting from the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal. Bataan ARG/26th MEU units bring to the region additional aviation and naval assets, as well as more U.S. Marines and Sailors, providing greater flexibility and maritime capability to U.S. 5th Fleet," CENTCOM said in a statement. 

"An amphibious assault ship can carry more than two dozen rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft, including MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and AV-8B Harrier attack jets in addition to several amphibious landing craft," the statement added. "A dock landing ship also supports operations for various rotary-wing aircraft, tactical vehicles and amphibious landing craft." 

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The Navy said the Bataan ARG departed Norfolk on July 10 while the 26th MEU, which is based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, "is capable of conducting amphibious missions, crisis response," and "designated special operations," among other abilities. 

On July 20, CENTCOM said that "in response to recent attempts by Iran to seize commercial ships in the CENTCOM area of operations, the Secretary of Defense has ordered the deployment of an Amphibious Readiness Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit (ARG/MEU) into the CENTCOM area of responsibility." 

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"In the past two years, Iran has attacked, seized, or attempted seizure of nearly 20 internationally flagged merchant vessels in the CENTCOM area of operations," CENTCOM added at the time. 

The situation has led the U.S. military to consider placing armed personnel onboard commercial ships in the Strait of Hormuz, American officials told The Associated Press last week. 

"The Strait of Hormuz is a vital seaway that has a huge impact on seaborne trade around the world," National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said, according to AP. "It’s a critical chokepoint in the maritime world. And we have seen threats by Iran to affect that chokepoint." 

Fox News’ Liz Friden contributed to this report. 

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