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German warship ends mission against Houthi militants in Red Sea

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A German warship ended its mission protecting merchant shipping from Houthi militants in Yemen and departed from the Red Sea early on Saturday morning.

The frigate was part of the EU’s defensive naval mission Aspides and was deployed in the Red Sea in February to protect merchant ships from attacks by the militants in Yemen, who are protesting against the war in Gaza.

The Red Sea is home to the most important sea route from Asia to Europe, which runs through the Suez Canal.

Houthi militants, allied with Iran, want to force an end to the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip.

The frigate, with a crew of 240 on board, completed the mission at 5:50 am (0350 GMT) and left the area of operations, the Bundeswehr said.

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

The vessel was deployed on February 23 after a series of attacks on merchant vessels. Major shipping companies began avoiding the Red Sea, part of the shortest sea route between Asia and Europe, impacting the global economy.

The German Defence Ministry said the vessel safely escorted 27 merchant ships through the area of operation.

In four cases, Houthi drones and missiles were successfully countered, the ministry said.

In total, the frigate covered more than 11,000 kilometres in the area of operation.

The crew provided medical first aid on two occasions, for a soldier from a partner nation and for a crew member of a merchant ship.

The 143-metre frigate is equipped with anti-aircraft missiles and was designed for escort and maritime surveillance, with radar capable of monitoring airspace the size of the North Sea, according to the Bundeswehr.

Also known as an air defence frigate, its weapon systems are capable of engaging targets at a range of up to 160 kilometres.

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius called this the most dangerous naval operation in decades on a visit to the frigate days before the mission began.

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