VIEQUES, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Several U.S. lawmakers were joining protesters today at the U.S. Navy's prized training ground to show their support as they waited for an expected raid by federal authorities to expel them.
''In the final count, we are going to win peace for Vieques,'' Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois told protesters in the bomb-littered range on Vieques island at dawn today.
Some 50 protesters on several campsites in the range and dozens more in front of its main gate say authorities will have to arrest them to clear the area, which has been idle since stray bombs killed a civilian guard in April 1999. A few have threatened to scatter into the bomb-strewn bush, endangering themselves and any pursuers.
Pentagon officials say a raid would be carried out in an FBI-led operation, and tensions have mounted since three U.S. warships arrived off Vieques on Monday, reportedly carrying 1,000 Marines to help secure the base perimeter once the area is cleared. Helicopters have been flying over the area, but authorities have given no hint of when an operation will begin.
At a briefing Tuesday, the Pentagon spokesman, Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, refused to answer questions about a planned operation. He defended the Navy's position that the inhabited island offers the Atlantic Fleet ''the opportunity to combine both the amphibious training, the naval gunfire training and the air-to-ground ordnance training.''
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