EU Forces Begin Aerial Strikes on Somali Pirates

by Patrick Brennan

A European Union force has begun airborne attacks on pirate bases in Somalia. AP reports:

The European Union Naval Force patrolling Somalia’s pirate-infested waters said Tuesday it conducted its first onshore air raid on pirate targets, and a pirate said the attack set back their operations by destroying a supply center.

No deaths were reported in Tuesday morning’s attack on Handulle village, about 18 kilometers (11 miles) north of Haradheere town, a key pirate lair. The EU Naval Force announced in March that it would expand its mission to include Somalia’s coast and waterways inside the country for the first time.

Bile Hussein, a pirate commander, said the attack along Somalia’s central coastline destroyed speed boats, fuel depots and an arms store. “They destroyed our equipment to ashes. It was a key supplies center for us,” Hussein said. “The fuel contributed to the flames and destruction. Nothing was spared.” He said nine speed boats were destroyed, and that three of them were on standby for hijackings. . . .

Since December 2008, the EU has kept five to 10 warships off the Horn of Africa in an operation known as Atalanta. NATO has a similar anti-piracy flotilla known as Ocean Shield, and other countries – including the United States, India, China, Russia, and Malaysia – also have dispatched naval vessels to patrol the region. . . .

The EU did not say which member nation’s forces carried out Tuesday’s raid.

But two months ago, the Atalanta force was joined by French amphibious assault ship Dixmude. The 21,000-ton ship, the largest to serve with the EU mission, is capable of acting as a mobile operating base for 16 choppers – including Tigre helicopter gunships – significantly adding to the reach of the naval force.

A new 3,500-strong force of Ugandan troops, financed and trained by the U.S., is also about to deploy to Somalia as part of the African Union peacekeeping force, which has experienced some recent success against Somalia’s assorted Islamist and terrorist elements.

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