By Associated Press
5:12 a.m. EDT, May 15, 2012
BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s naval force off the Somali coastline on Tuesday carried out its first air strikes against pirate targets on shore, officials said.
Maritime aircraft and attack helicopters took part in the attacks early in the morning on the mainland, a spokesman said. No casualties were reported in the raid, which occurred along Somalia’s central coastline in the region of Galmudug.
“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,” said Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
The long coastline of war-ravaged Somalia provides a perfect haven for pirate gangs preying on shipping off the East African coast.
Since December 2008, the EU has kept 5-10 warships off the Horn of Africa in an operation known as Atalanta. NATO has a similar anti-piracy flotilla known as Ocean Shield, and other countries — including the United States, India, China, Russia, and Malaysia — also have dispatched naval vessels to patrol the region.
Last month, the EU adopted a more robust mandate for its naval force, allowing it for the first time to mount strikes against pirate targets on the shoreline.
The EU is the main donor to the Somali transitional government. It is also trains Somali army troops, and is reinforcing the navies of five neighboring countries to enable them to counter piracy themselves.