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U.S. troops begin Patriot missile duty in Turkey

| Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, 8:20 p.m.

ANKARA, Turkey — American troops have started to arrive in Turkey to man Patriot missiles meant to protect the NATO ally from potential Syrian warheads, the U.S. military said Friday.

The United States, Germany and the Netherlands are each deploying two batteries of the U.S.-built defense system to boost Turkey's air defenses against any spillover from Syria's nearly 2-year civil war. The Patriot systems are expected to become operational later this month.

The Stuttgart, Germany-based U.S. European Command said in a statement that American personnel and equipment had started arriving at Turkey's southern Incirlik Air Base. Some 400 personnel and equipment from the military's Fort Sill, Oklahoma-based 3rd Battalion were to be airlifted to Turkey over the coming days, while additional equipment was expected to reach Turkey by sea later in January, the Command said.

NATO endorsed Turkey's request for the Patriots on Nov. 30 after several Syrian shells landed on Turkish territory.

Last month, NATO said the Syrian military has continued to fire Scud-type missiles, although none had hit Turkish territory, and said the alliance was justified in deploying the anti-missile systems in Turkey. Ankara is supporting the Syrian opposition and rebels and is providing shelter to Syrian refugees.

More than 1,000 American, German and Dutch troops are to be based in Turkey to operate the batteries.

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