Hundreds of West Country Royal Marines and naval personnel heading for Libya

HUNDREDS of Royal Marines and naval personnel are preparing to head to the Mediterranean as the crisis in Libya escalates.

A task force of about 600 Royal Marines and at least six ships are about to leave for the region, massively enhancing the UK's military strength there.

The Trafalgar class submarine HMS Turbulent, and Type-22 frigate, HMS Cumberland – both Devonport-based – are already stationed in the Med off Libya.

Yesterday, The Sunday Times reported that Britain was sending a "task force" of marines and naval ships to Libya this week on a "humanitarian" mission.

The aim of the mission was to deliver emergency medical and food supplies to rebel-held towns, it said. The task force would include up to 600 marines from Taunton-based 40 Commando to protect ports where humanitarian supplies would be unloaded.

The newspaper said the ships, including Devonport-based assault ship HMS Albion, were due to leave Plymouth either today or tomorrow, initially for Gibraltar. The marines will fly out to Gibraltar this week, it said.

Yesterday , Foreign Secretary William Hague denied the report, insisting they were actually "preparing for an exercise elsewhere".

Despite Mr Hague's denials, a task force of ships – including Albion – is due to sail for the Med shortly.

The assault ship is part of the Royal Navy's Responsive Force Task Group, which is deploying this month on Operation Cougar, the first phase of which will run in the Mediterranean until June.

[Source: Herald, Plymouth, GBR, 04Apr11]

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