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US defence chief orders Patriot missiles to Turkey

A US soldier stands next to a Patriot surface-to-air missile battery at an army base in Morag, Poland. Credit: Reuters

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed an order to send two Patriot missile batteries to Turkey with 400 American staff to operate them, his spokesman George Little told reporters, before Panetta landed on an unannounced visit to Turkey.

"The purpose of this deployment is to signal very strongly that the United States, working closely with our NATO allies, is going to support the defence of Turkey, especially with potential threats emanating from Syria," the spokesman said.