The European Union on Tuesday defended the first-ever raid carried out by its naval forces on pirate bases on the Somali mainland earlier in the day, insisting that the operation was in accordance with a previous resolution of the U.N. Security Council on piracy.
In a statement released by her office, EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton welcomed "the successful operation conducted by EUNAVFOR Operation Atalanta to disrupt pirates' logistical dumps in Somalia, which is in accordance with the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1851 (2008), as updated with UNSCR 2020 (2011)."
Noting that piracy continues to adversely affect shipping in the oceans off the coast of East Africa, the statement said the EU was working jointly with Somali, regional and international partners to combat the menace.
It said piracy was threatening peaceful maritime commerce in the affected region, weakening and undermining the economy of countries neighboring Somalia and imposing additional costs on the "world's shipping industry as well as personal costs on the 200 mariners still in captivity."
According to the statement, EU's comprehensive approach to the problem includes action against pirates at sea, action to constrain the financial benefits of piracy, and support for the establishment of a lasting political solution on land which will enable accountable government and the rule of law to be re-established throughout Somalia.
"Today's action is an integral part of that overall strategy, in line with the new mandate for EUNAVFOR agreed by EU Foreign Ministers on March 23, 2012. The EU will continue to remain active in this field," the statement added.
Earlier in the day, EUNAVFOR said in a press release that the raid by its commandos on pirate bases near the port of Haradhere was carried out with the full support of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia. Pirates' fuel depots and a stockpile of weapons and ammunition are reported to have been destroyed in the raid.
The EU force said in the statement that the "focused, precise and proportionate action" was conducted from the air and that all forces returned safely to EU warships on completion of the operation. It said surveillance of the area during the action indicated that no Somalis were injured in the operation, and added that it continued to asses the situation.
Operation Commander of the EU Naval Force Rear Admiral Duncan Potts said the operation was expected to further increase pressure on the pirates and disrupt their efforts to venture into the sea to attack merchant ships and dhows. He added that "Operation Atalanta remains committed to fighting piracy off the Horn of Africa and the humanitarian mission of protecting World Food Program ships that bring vital aid to the Somali people."
Somalia's coastline, particularly the Gulf of Aden, has been infested with pirates in recent years. Pirates are presently believed to be holding at least ten ships and more than 200 hostages. The incidents mostly end with payment of huge ransom after lengthy negotiations, but generally without any fatalities.
Pirate attacks off the Somali coast and in the Indian Ocean continue despite the presence of several warships deployed by navies of the NATO, the European Union, Russia, China, South Korea and India to protect cargo and cruise ships against piracy.
In recent months, pirates have extended their operations deep into the Indian Ocean to avoid interception by international anti-piracy forces patroling the Gulf of Aden, off the Somali coast and parts of the Indian Ocean.
by RTT Staff Writer
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