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Marines send more embassy guards to Paris after attack

November 17, 2015 (Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Antwaun Jefferson/Marine Corps)


The Marine Corps sent additional embassy security guards to Paris following Friday's attack there, which left 129 dead and hundreds more wounded, as officials fear more strikes in Europe.

Members of the Corps' embassy reinforcement team, the Marine Security Augmentation Unit, arrived in Paris Monday, Marine Corps Times has learned.

The Marines, based in Quantico, Virginia, are trained embassy guards who can reinforce security at diplomatic facilities worldwide.

"As a result of the terrorist attacks in Paris, and at the request of the Department of State, the Marine Corps completed a movement of a Marine Security Augmentation Unit (MSAU) to Europe," said Maj. Chris Devine, a Marine spokesman at the Pentagon. The Marines "[stand] ready to provide additional security support to diplomatic facilities when requested by the U.S. ambassador or Department of State." 

The size of the MSAU teams sent to shore up security at embassies is determined by the State Department. Dayna Rowden, a State Department spokeswoman, declined to comment on the size of the Marine embassy guard team in Paris, citing operational security concerns. 

On Friday night, three teams of coordinated attackers struck several popular locations in Paris. The Islamic State group has taken responsibility for the attacks, and has since warned that other cities — including Washington — could be next. 

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has also cautioned that more attacks across Europe could already be in the works. 

"We know that more attacks are being prepared, not just against France but also against other European countries," he told RTL, a French national radio network on Monday.

The Marine Security Augmentation Unit can be summoned by a U.S. ambassador, chief of mission or regional security officer if an embassy is in trouble. If there is credible intelligence of a threat to an embassy, the augmentation unit can dispatch Marine security guards to reinforce it immediately. 

The unit was stood up in the summer of 2013 following the deadly September 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead. At the time, there were no Marine security guards there or in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, which prompted lawmakers to ask what the State Department could do to better protect diplomatic personnel and facilities worldwide. 

After that attack, Congress called on the Marine Corps to add 1,000 new Marine security guards to its ranks to better protect diplomatic posts around the globe. The Marine Corps created the security augmentation unit as part of its embassy guard plus-up. 

There are about 120 members of the MSAU, which typically dispatches squad-sized teams from its headquarters in Quantico to diplomatic facilities when needed. Over the past two years, the MSAU has been tapped for about 60 missions across the globe, according to Marine officials. 

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