Jan. 3 (UPI) -- The Defense Department said late Sunday that the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and its strike group are to remain in the Middle East to counter Iranian threats days after it was ordered to return home following a 10-month deployment.
Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller announced the move Sunday in a statement, saying the carrier "will now remain on station in the U.S. Central Command area of operations," which consists of more than 4 million square miles and 20 countries, including Iran.
"Due to recent threats issued by Iranian leaders against President Trump and other U.S. government officials, I have ordered the USS Nimitz to halt its routine re-deployment," Miller said in the statement. "No one should doubt the resolve of the United States of America."
The strike group -- which includes Nimitz, 60 aircraft, two guided-missile cruisers and a guided-missile destroyer -- was ordered home on Thursday.
Late last week, Ebrahim Raisi, Iran's judiciary chief, told university students at an event in Tehran, that those responsible for Soleimani's death, including President Donald Trump, will not "escape law and justice."
On Sunday, top Iranian Gen. Rahim Safavi warned the United States they are capable of sinking U.S. carriers.
"Iran is capable of turning U.S. aircraft carriers into submarines in a few hours," he said, Iran's Tasnim News Agency reported. "We will never initiate a war, but we will respond decisively and with our utmost power and readiness if anyone attacks Iran."
The USS Nimitz had been positioned earlier last week off the coast of Africa to support the relocation of U.S. troops from Somalia and had been on a deployment in support of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.