A few pirates got an unwelcome surprise today when European Union forces conducted its first-ever onshore raid on a suspected pirate lair in Somalia.
The attack helicopters – including Tigre helicopter gunships – laid waste to pirates’ boats, fuel, and weaponry.
Five attack boats were destroyed and their outboard engines wrecked during the pre-dawn operation, which an EU military official said was intended to “make life difficult” for pirates on land and at sea.
It marks the first time European military units have been ordered to attack pirates on mainland Somalia, comes on the heels of an EU ruling two months ago allowing “disruptive action against known pirate supplies on the shore.”
“An unidentified helicopter destroyed five of our hunting boats early in the morning. There were no casualties,” said one of the pirates. “We were setting off from shore when the helicopter attacked. We ran away without counter-attacking.”
The strike involved military officers from several different European navies patrolling off Somalia, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and Portugal.
The EU force, called Atalanta, was recently joined by the French amphibious assault ship Dixmude. The 21,300-ton vessel is capable of acting as a mobile operating base for 16 helicopters – including the aforementioned Tigre gunships – significantly adding to the reach of the naval force.
There were no reports of any casualties in the assault on Handulle village, located approximately ten miles north of Haradheere town, in Mudug province, a key pirate lair.
“We believe this action will further increase the pressure on [pirates], and disrupt pirates’ efforts to get out to sea to attack merchant shipping and dhows,” said Rear Admiral Duncan Potts, the British operation commander of the EU Naval Force.
“Our action against pirate supplies on the shoreline is merely an extension of the disruption carried out against pirate ships at sea, and Operation Atalanta remains committed to fighting piracy off the Horn of Africa and to the humanitarian mission of protecting World Food Program ships that bring vital aid to the Somali people.”
A study published earlier this year by the One Earth Future Foundation revealed that Somali pirates cost the world economy some $7 billion in 2011, with ransoms paid reaching $160 million.
The pirates are reportedly switching back to using smaller vessels as “motherships,” hoping to avoid detection in the face of more robust maritime security.
See some of the Tigre helicopter gunships in action in the video below.
- EU Carries out First Strikes on Somali Pirates. (abcnews.go.com)
- EU carries out first air strikes against Somali pirates (cbc.ca)
- EU Navy Attacks Onshore Pirate Base In Somalia (ibtimes.com)