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Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers on Wednesday ended without incident their first escort mission off Somalia, the Defense Ministry said.

The escort mission marked the start of the first antipiracy action abroad for the Maritime Self-Defense Force.

The 4,650-ton Sazanami and 4,550-ton Samidare escorted three automobile carriers and two tankers — all operated by Japanese firms — through the Gulf of Aden during a roughly 34-hour trip, the ministry said.

The destroyers are expected to repeat similar escort missions in the gulf, receiving oil and other supplies from an MSDF refueling vessel and making occasional port calls in neighboring countries.

The destroyers were sent in mid-March after Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada ordered their dispatch to help Japan-linked commercial ships safely navigate the pirate-infested gulf.

The dispatch came against the backdrop of a surge in pirate incidents in the area. Other countries, including the United States, European Union nations, China and Russia, have also sent warships in support of U.N. Security Council resolutions on combating piracy off Somalia.

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