In the early hours of May 15, European naval forces (Eunavfor) carried out their first strike against a pirate base in Somalia. The ships and helicopters of Eunavfor undertaking “Operation Atalanta” have attacked renegade vessels at sea on numerous occasions, but Tuesday morning’s raid was their first strike against targets on shore.
Helicopters from several Eunavfor vessels were involved in the attack, along with maritime patrol aircraft. Reports suggest they destroyed at least five of the fast vessels that the pirates have been using for boarding commercial ships, along with fuel supplies and an arms cache. The attack was conducted on a pirate stronghold at Handulle, north of the city of Haradheere. No casualties were recorded.
The raid was the first to be carried out following a March 23 decision by the EU to expand the remit of Eunavfor so that it could disrupt piracy activities on the Somali coastline, and comes at a time of renewed calls for more direct action. Rear Admiral Duncan Potts, commander of the Atalanta force, emphasized that “boots” did not go ashore at any time, and reassured local Somali people that “our focus was on known pirate supplies and will remain so in the future.”
At present Operation Atalanta is conducted by nine warships and five maritime patrol aircraft. The fleet comprises the French vessels Marne, Nivôse and Guépratte; the Spanish Infanta Elena and Reina Sofia; the German replenishment ship Berlin; Corte Real from Portugal; Van Amstel of the Netherlands; and the Italian Scirocco. Allocated maritime patrol aircraft are a German P-3, French Atlantique, Spanish CN-235 and two Fairchild Merlins provided by the Luxembourg government. U.S. Navy aircraft have also been involved in the anti-piracy mission.