European Union hits pirate targets on Somali coast in landmark move


The European Union’s anti-piracy naval force has attacked pirate installations on the Somali coastline by air, the first time it has done so since its mandate was expanded earlier this year.

The EU Navfor conducted the operation to destroy pirate equipment on the Somali coastline earlier today, using aircraft and helicopters to strike targets along the central coastline in the region of Galmudug.
“We believe this action by the EU Naval Force will further increase the pressure on, and disrupt pirates’ efforts to get out to sea to attack merchant shipping and dhows,” Operation Commander of the EU Naval Force (EU Navfor), Rear Admiral Duncan Potts, said in a statement. “The local Somali people and fishermen – many of whom have suffered so much because of piracy in the region, can be reassured that our focus was on known pirate supplies and will remain so in the future.”

The operation follows a decision taken on March 23 by the Council of the European Union to allow the EU Naval Force to take disruption action against known pirate supplies on the shore.

Before then, the force had operated in Somalia’s territorial and internal waters. The extension to Somali coastal territory – land along the country’s coastline – is aimed at enabling Operation Atalanta to work directly with Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government and other Somali entities in their fight against piracy from the coastal area. An EU official said that the force would still only operate at sea and in the air, though could now target pirates’ weaponry and other equipment on land.

Today’s operation was conducted in accordance with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1851 and had the full support of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, the EU Navfor said. “The focused, precise and proportionate action was conducted from the air and all forces returned safely to EU warships on completion. Whilst assessment is on-going, surveillance of the area during the action indicates that no Somalis were injured ashore as a result of EU action.” Only aircraft took part in the operation – no personnel were deployed on the ground.
“The EU Naval Force action against pirate supplies on the shoreline is merely an extension of the disruption actions carried out against pirate ships at sea, and Operation Atalanta remains committed to fighting piracy off the Horn of Africa and the humanitarian mission of protecting World Food Programme ships that bring vital aid to the Somali people,” Potts said.

Operation Atalanta is part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to tackling symptoms and root causes of piracy in the Horn of Africa and the EU strategic framework for that region adopted in November 2011. Currently there are nine warships in the EU Naval Force and five Maritime Patrol Aircraft. The EU is the main donor to the Somali transitional government, and also trains Somali troops. In addition, it is reinforcing the navies of Somalia’s neighbours so they are better able to fight piracy.
“Fighting piracy and its root causes is a priority of our action in the Horn of Africa,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.

The reach of Somali pirates is vast; they have attacked merchant ships up to 1,750 miles off the Somali coast. Preventing them getting out to sea is a crucial step in removing their impunity ashore and to further the success of counter-piracy operations, the EU Navfor said.

Pirates operating from the Somali coast have raked in millions of dollars in ransoms from hijacking ships and a report in 2011 estimated that maritime piracy costs the global economy between US$7 billion and US$12 billion through higher shipping costs and ransom payments.

It has long been said that piracy is best tackled from land and that if pirate bases are destroyed, they will not be able to put to sea at all. South Africa’s Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu during the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium in Cape Town last month said that maritime insecurity has its roots on land and that the socio-economic situations of countries home to pirates – like Somalia – need to be taken into consideration.
“A single military maritime response will achieve little on its own,” she said. “This is particularly important when considering that most matters of maritime crime originate on land. A solution which only addresses itself to the maritime dimension, without taking cognisance of the broader land-based complexities, will at best be limited in its success, and fundamentally flawed.”
“Essentially, the broader focus needs to direct itself to addressing not only symptoms such as maritime crime, but also to address itself to the root causes, such as ongoing instability, lack of good governance, lack of viability of the local economy and poverty and continued underdevelopment.”