The hymn to joy accompanies the delivery of the European flag into the hands of the new mission commander, the 46th in the history of Atalanta. From today, the Italian rear admiral Francesco Saladino will lead the anti-piracy operation between the Red Sea and Somalia, founded in 2008., who replaced the Portuguese Rogerio Martins de Brito. For the next six months he will coordinate, on board the Martinengo ship, the fleet that operates under the European flag to guarantee the safety of ships transiting in one of the hottest areas of the Middle East, where not only pirate attacks have intensified for weeks but also the Houthi raids. And against the Yemeni rebels the US has launched self-defense attacks in Yemen, hitting among other things missiles ready to launch “to protect freedom of navigation in international waters”.
«We are aware of the challenges that await us – commented the Minister of Defense, Guido Crosetto – but we are also aware of our ability to face them successfully, thanks to the professionalism and experience of our armed forces as well as the solid collaboration with our allies and international partners”. At the port of Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa, institutions and authorities attend the handover on board the Spanish frigate Victoria. «We achieved great results in the Red Sea just a few days ago and now we are ready to operate under the European flag again», were Saladin’s words. The ship Martinengo, in fact, has just returned from the operation to protect and safeguard Italian merchant ships in the Red Sea, now entrusted to the Duilio. Mission created precisely to guarantee the safety of commercial ships bound for Italy and which could be subject to Houthi attacks.
«We will work to prevent and repress piracy, we will protect ships and merchant ships, because this is our mission – underlined the admiral during the handover – The challenges we find ourselves facing today reaffirm the strategic importance of Atalanta for the European Union. We feel a great sense of responsibility for this commitment.” A commitment made even more burdensome not only by the resurgence of attacks on ships by pirates but also, and above all, by raids by Yemeni rebels. «We are aware of the different threats in this area – Saladino’s words to ANSA – There are numerous international operators with whom we have a continuous and intense exchange of information to be aware of the risks and threats and to better defend merchant traffic» . Precisely for this reason, by the end of the month – once the final green light has been given from Brussels – the new European Aspides mission will start, of which Italy will have the tactical command. An operation that was created specifically to counter the Houthi raids and which, therefore, will have different rules of engagement compared to Atalanta, despite the threats from the rebels who also reached Rome yesterday. “We don’t let ourselves be blackmailed – Crosetto’s reply – they don’t intimidate us.” And tomorrow, from Djibouti, Martinengo will set sail again towards the Gulf of Aiden, this time with the European flag hoisted on the shore.