China has sent a new naval squadron to conduct anti-piracy patrols off the coast of Somalia after diverting other ships to help evacuate citizens from war-torn Yemen.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the three ships left the port of Zhoushan on Friday for the Gulf of Aden.

Since 2008, China has contributed ships to multinational anti-piracy patrols that escort commercial ships and respond to piracy threats. Xinhua said the three ships in the new squadron are carrying special forces soldiers.

Earlier this week, China dispatched three navy ships to rescue Chinese citizens and other foreign nationals from fighting in Yemen. They included 176 Pakistanis who were flown home after being evacuated to Djibouti on Thursday.