By Stephen M. Silverman
September 16, 2001 10:46 AM

More than 3,000 U.S. marines and sailors rehearsed helicopter and ship-to-shore landings off East Timor, in Indonesia, on Sunday amid expectations of a revenge strike over the terror attacks on New York and Washington, reports Reuters. On Saturday, PEOPLE.com began receiving reports from family members of U.S. Marines, who were receiving goodbye calls from their sons, who added that they could not reveal their destinations. The taskforce from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Amphibious Squadron One had been due to disembark troops for humanitarian work in Dili, the southwest town of Suai and the Oecussi enclave in Indonesian West Timor. Instead, reported the news service, three amphibious ships led by the 40,000-ton U.S.S. Peleliu stayed off the north coast of the capital practicing naval and air maneuvers with Harrier jets, helicopters and landing craft. Before Tuesday’s tragedy on American soil, the warships were on a routine six-month deployment to the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf. U.S. army spokesman Major Paul van Breemen told Reuters in Dili that the taskforce was due to sail for the Oecussi enclave on Monday to deliver humanitarian supplies before heading to Singapore. “After that,” he said, “I am not really sure where they will go. They are part of a much bigger force.”

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