The European Union (EU) launched attack helicopter and “maritime aircraft” strikes on an alleged pirate base near Haradheere. Stating that there had been no EU “boots on the ground”, reports indicated that helicopters from the EU’s Naval Force (NAVFOR) had destroyed nine speedboats, an arms dump and fuel supplies in a night-time raid.
Bile Hussein, a pirate commander, later told Associated Press: “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.’ The pirates responded angrily to the strike and pirate commander Abdi Yare told AFP ‘If they continue attacking Somali coastal villages, then there will be terrible consequences.’ Although no casualties were recorded fisherman Mohammed Hussein alleged fishing boats were destroyed in the operation. ‘We are very much worried that fishermen will die in such operations,’ he added.
Speaking to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, NAVFOR spokesperson Lt Cmdr Sheriff acknowledged some pirate camps were also used by fishermen but said the target of the strike had been a known pirate base with no fishing activity.
NAVFOR commander Rear Admiral Duncan Potts said of the attack: “The EU Naval Force action against pirate supplies on the shoreline is merely an extension of the disruption actions carried out against pirate ships at sea. We believe this action by the EU Naval Force will further increase the pressure on and disrupt pirates’ efforts to get out to sea and attack merchant shipping and dhows.”
Although the EU did not reveal which nations had taken part in the attack, AP reported that the newly-commissioned French amphibious assault ship Dixmude, part of NAVFOR, carried Tigre helicopter gunships. But NAVFOR spokesperson Timo Lange told the Bureau the Dixmude had left the EU flotilla at around the end of April, returning to French naval command. Lt Cmdr Sherriff told the Bureau the attack was instead carried out with helicopters “organic to the ships we have with us” and that small arms fire was used for the attack.
However “an intelligence operative close to EU anti-piracy operations” told Defence Report EU that ground forces did lead the strike, saying the destruction of the pirates’ fast boats could only have been achieved with a ground assault.
EU foreign policy spokesperson Michael Mann said that “This action against piracy is part of a comprehensive EU approach to the crisis in Somalia, where we support a lasting political solution on land.” A Royal Navy source told the Daily Telegraph it was a good time to step up attacks on pirate infrastructure. The source continued: “However, the Somalis will certainly be better prepared next time round and are likely to defend their bases with significant anti-aircraft assets now they know that the ante has been upped. This will inevitably lead to bloodshed and escalation.”
The EU had paved the way for the strikes in a March 23 decision allowing it to target Somalia’s “territorial, coastal and internal waters.”
The local time of the incident is unknown.