BRITISH destroyer HMS Diamond has stopped in Gibraltar on its way to the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean on a mission to protect merchant shipping.

The Type 45 Royal Navy destroyer stopped for 72 hours on the Rock before refuelling and setting off once again to join up with HMS Lancaster as part of Operation Kipion.

It follows what UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps called ‘the unlawful and brazen seizure’ of the MV Galaxy Leader by the Iran-backed Houthi Yemen rebel group in the Red Sea.

The ship will focus on patrolling chokepoints such as where the Red Sea connects with the Gulf of Aden.

Images show HMS Diamond departing HM Naval Base in Gibraltar.

Tension in the area has escalated after the USS Carney, another destroyed, shot down a drone threat on November 28.

Then the Houthi foreign ministry claimed there would be no safety in the Red Sea until the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip ended.

British interests are under threat from the attacks and the HMS Diamond is the latest ship to help protect sea trade routes in the region.

“It is critical that the UK bolsters our presence in the region, to keep Britain and our interests safe from a more volatile and contested world,” Shapps continued.

“Today’s deployment will strengthen the Royal Navy’s patrols, help to keep critical trade routes open and prove that our commitment to regional security not only endures but enhances.”

Apart from the HMS Lancaster, three mine-hunting vessels and a support ship are also in the region, coordinated by a British command post in Bahrain.

The HMS Diamond is one of the Royal Navy’s ‘most advanced vessels’, the MoD said in a statement.

It is equipped with a Wildcat helicopter, anti-air and anti-ship missiles and air-tracking radar.

“Around 50 large merchant ships each day pass through the Bab-el-Mandeb, connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, while around 115 major merchant ships pass through the Strait of Hormuz,” the MoD statement added.

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