German warships end mission against Houthi militants in Red Sea

A German warship left the Red Sea early Saturday after completing a mission to protect a merchant ship from Yemen’s Houthi militants.

The frigate is part of the European Union’s defense naval mission Aspides, which was deployed to the Red Sea in February to protect commercial ships from attacks by Yemeni militants protesting the war in Gaza.

The Red Sea has the most important shipping route from Asia to Europe through the Suez Canal.

The Iranian-aligned Houthi militants want to force an end to Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip.

According to the Bundeswehr, the frigate, carrying 240 crew members, completed its mission at 5:50 a.m. (3:50 p.m. Japan time) and left the operational area.

The Hessian’s crew repeatedly shot down drones launched by insurgents in the German Navy’s first mission of its kind.

The ship was deployed on February 23 after a series of attacks on merchant ships. Major shipping companies are starting to avoid the Red Sea, which is part of the shortest shipping route between Asia and Europe, with repercussions for the global economy.

The German Ministry of Defense announced that the ship safely escorted 27 commercial ships within its operational area.

The ministry said it had successfully countered Houthi drones and missiles in four cases.

In total, the frigates covered a range of more than 11,000 kilometers.

The crew twice provided medical first aid to enemy soldiers and the crew of the merchant ship.

The 143-meter-long frigate is equipped with anti-aircraft missiles, is designed for escort and maritime surveillance, and has radar capable of monitoring an airspace the size of the North Sea, the Bundeswehr said.

Its weapon system, also known as an air defense frigate, can attack targets at a range of up to 160 kilometers.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius visited the frigate days before the mission began, calling it the most dangerous naval operation in decades.

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