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US ship heads out to destroy Syrian chemical weapons

Published on Jan 28, 2014 11:01 AM

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A specially-equipped US naval ship departed for Italy on Monday on a ground-breaking mission to destroy Syria's most dangerous chemical agents, Pentagon officials said.

Setting off from the port of Norfolk on the Virginia coast, the MV Cape Ray is due to arrive in the southern port of Gioia Tauro in about "two to three weeks," spokesman Colonel Steven Warren told reporters.

The 197.5 meter cargo ship has been outfitted with two large portable hydrolysis systems designed to neutralize lethal chemical agents in Syria's arsenal.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sent a letter to Captain Rick Jordan and the 135-member crew telling them they were embarking on a "historic mission". "You are about to accomplish something no one has tried," Mr Hagel wrote in the letter released by the Defense Department.

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