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EU forces attack Somali pirates on land for first time

An armed Somali pirate keeps vigil on the coastline near Hobyo, northeastern Somalia, in January, 2010.
An armed Somali pirate keeps vigil on the coastline near Hobyo, northeastern Somalia, in January, 2010.Mohamed Dahir / AFP - Getty Images, file

Europe's naval force patrolling off the coast East Africa said on Tuesday it had attacked Somali pirate installations on land, the first time it had conducted such an action since extending its remit from strictly to sea-based operations. 

Initial reports indicated that there were no casualties during the operation, which happened earlier on Tuesday, according to the European Union Naval Force (Somalia) Operation Atalanta's website.

"We believe this action by the EU Naval Force (NAVFOR) will further increase the pressure on, and disrupt pirates' efforts to get out to sea to attack merchant shipping and dhows," the commander of the EU Naval Force, Rear Admiral Duncan Potts, said in a statement. "The local Somali people ... 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 action was conducted from the air and "at no point did EU Naval Force 'boots' go ashore," the statement said.

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The European force, which is trying to stamp out piracy off the coasts of lawless Somalia, is made up of around 1,400 military personnel, nine warships and five maritime surveillance aircraft, according to NAVFOR's website. 

Despite successful efforts to quell attacks in the Gulf of Aden, international navies have struggled to contain piracy in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea owing to the vast distances involved.

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Seaborne gangs have raked in an estimated $150 million in ransoms in what has become a highly organized, international criminal enterprise, security analysts say. Somali pirates in the failed state have carried out more than 800 attacks on ships, from private yachts to oil supertankers since 2008, Bloomberg reported

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On March 23 the EU Council decided to allow its forces in the region to take "disruption action against known pirate supplies on the (Somali) shore."

"Putting pressure on their business model by destroying their boats and eliminating their fuel dumps will make life more difficult for the sponsors of piracy and the pirates themselves," the Council said in a statement

Reuters contributed to this report. 

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