Photo: Wikimedia Commons
European anti-piracy troops carried out their first ever air attack against Somali pirates’ equipment on land, strafing a series of skiffs with small arms fire during an early morning helicopter raid.All of the boats, pulled up on the beach beyond the high-tide mark, were holed with repeated bursts of gunfire, and EU commanders believe several of their powerful outboard engines were also destroyed.
The helicopter flew low along the beach just after sunrise to carry out the attack early on Tuesday, which followed weeks of surveillance from spy planes circling above the pirates’ known hideouts.
The attack involved troops from several of the European navies currently patrolling off Somalia, from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Portugal. Officials said it was “a European mission” and would not specify from which warship the strike was launched.
It is the first time that European military units have been ordered to attack pirates on land, and follows an EU ruling six weeks ago allowing “disruptive action against known pirate supplies on the shore”.
There were no reported casualties during the mission, and all of the EU troops involved returned safely to their vessels after the attack.
None of them set foot on Somali soil, the EU said in a statement. “We believe this action will further increase the pressure on
[pirates], and disrupt pirates’ efforts to get out to sea to attack merchant shipping and dhows,” said Rear Admiral Duncan Potts, operation commander of the EU Naval Force.
“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 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”.
The raid targeted skiffs pulled up onshore close to the known pirate town of Haradheere, on the central Somali coastline 220 miles north of Mogadishu, the capital.
“The pirates have felt in the past that once they are on dry land, we have to back off,” said a spokesman for the EU Naval Force, which is led by the Royal Navy and headquartered at Northwood, Middlesex.
“Following the extension to our mandate, we are now able to deny them that impunity on land, and this morning’s mission is a clear demonstration that we intend to make life as difficult as we can for them on land as well as at sea.”
Not only were the skiffs destroyed, but pirate commanders would now be forced to change their way of working, including pulling the heavy boats further ashore, making it difficult for them to launch swift attacks from the beach.
Further similar air strikes were already planned, the EU Naval Force spokesman added.
Somalia’s government was told of the mission before it took place and gave it their full support.
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