By Vandana Rambaran | Fox News
The U.S. Air Force is deploying six B-52 bombers to Diego Garcia, an island base in the Indian Ocean, amid the rising threat of Iran retaliating after a U.S.-led airstrike killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
An undated file photo shows Diego Garcia, the largest island in the Chagos archipelago and site of a major United States military base in the middle of the Indian Ocean leased from Britain in 1966.
The move, which was first reported by CNN, is the latest in efforts by U.S. military officials to bolster resources near the Middle East after the Iraqi Shia militia Kataib Hezbollah hinted at possible retaliatory attacks to avenge Soleimani’s death.
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The B-52 bombs were reportedly spotted being transported from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana to Diego Garcia, which is located 2,300 miles south of Iran’s southernmost tip and ample striking distance for bombers who refuel in mid-air. The aircraft have have eight engines and are designed to carry a large cache of weapons including cruise missiles, conventional and laser-guided bombs, and nuclear gravity bombs.
JAN 06: USAF B-52Hs MYTEE51 & 52 departed Barksdale AFB for Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean due to #Iran tensions.
The U.S. military had previously sent a bomber task force to Qatar in May, but the bombers left after a few months, a U.S. defense official said.
Bossier City, Louisiana, U.S.A.-April 6, 2017: A U.S. Air Force B 52 bomber, assigned to the Air Force Global Strike Command’s Eighth Air Force, prepares to land at Barksdale Air Force Base.
On Monday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attempted to quell confusion about a letter circulating from the U.S. military telling Iraq that it would withdraw troops from the region a day after Iraqi lawmakers approved a resolution calling to expel U.S. troops from the country.
Both Esper and Milley called the unsigned letter a mistake and said the U.S. has no intention of withdrawing troops from the Middle East as tensions ramp up. Instead, Milley told reporters the U.S. military is bringing in reinforcements from Kuwait and beefing up helicopter force protection inside Iraq, particularly in the heavily fortified Green Zone, which has been bombarded with rocket attacks over the past three days.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report. Vandana Rambaran is a reporter covering news and politics at foxnews.com.
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