European warships are to be authorised to attack pirate bases and fuel dumps on the Somali coast after European Union defence ministers agreed to expand anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, it has been announced.
As well as expanding the remit of Operation Atalanta, the EU Naval Force initiative to protect merchant shipping from pirate groups operating in the area, ministers said it would be extended until December 2014, with a budget of €14.9m approved.
The decision to allow European warships to attack coastal targets such as fuel dumps, jetties and the pirates' boats has been approved by Somalia's Transitional Federation Government. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said: "Fighting piracy and its root causes is a priority of our action in the Horn of Africa.
"Operation Atalanta has made a significant contribution to this effort, in coordination with our international partners. Today's important decision extends Atalanta's mandate for two more years and allows it to take more robust action on the Somali coast. Despite pressure on defence budgets, EU member states thereby demonstrate their renewed commitment to this successful operation."
Rear Admiral Duncan Potts, EUNAVFOR's operational commander, said: "The extension of the mandate until the end of 2014 confirms the EU's commitment to fighting piracy off the Horn of Africa. Piracy has caused so much misery to the Somali people and to the crews of ships transiting the area, and it is right that we continue to move forward in our efforts."This article first appeared on PublicServiceEurope.com's sister site defencemanagement.com EU ships to hit Somali pirates' land bases