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15 May 2012 11:01
A European naval helicopter fired at pirate-owned supplies on the Somali coastline on Tuesday, for the first time since the European Union authorised such strikes. (Mohamed Dahir, AFP)
“The focused, precise and proportionate action was conducted from the air and all forces returned safely to EU warships on completion,” the EU’s naval mission said.
“Whilst assessment is ongoing, surveillance of the area during the action indicates that no Somalis were injured ashore as a result of EU action.”
The operation targeted pirate equipment but the statement did not specify the nature of the target or the exact location of the strike.
The EU’s Operation Atalanta has deployed between five and 10 warships off the Somali coast since 2008 to escort humanitarian aid shipments and thwart pirate raids on commercial vessels using vital shipping lanes.
EU foreign ministers in March agreed to extend Operation Atalanta until December 2014 and authorise warships or naval aircraft to strike pirate equipment stored on land. But no troops are allowed on Somali territory.
Officials have said that the new mandate would allow warships or aircraft to fire at fuel barrels, boats, trucks or other equipment stowed on beaches.
“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,” said the mission’s commander, Rear Admiral Duncan Potts.
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