Fight Them on the Beaches

The German government has given the green light to the extension of the European Union’s anti-piracy operation off the Horn of Africa. Warships and helicopters are to be permitted to fire at fuel barrels, boats, trucks or other equipment stowed away on beaches.

Germany approves expansion of EU anti-piracy mission

The German government on Wednesday approved an extension of the European Union’s anti-piracy operation off the Horn of Africa to include targeting equipment stored on Somali beaches.

The cabinet gave the green light to the expanded mission which is expected to win final approval in a parliamentary vote next month.

The EU’s Operation Atalanta has deployed between five and 10 warships off the Somali coast since 2008 to escort humanitarian aid shipments and thwart pirate raids on commercial vessels using vital shipping lanes.

EU foreign ministers last month agreed to extend the mission until December 2014 and expand “the force’s area of operations to include Somali coastal territory as well as its territorial and internal waters”.

Warships or helicopters would be permitted to fire at fuel barrels, boats, trucks or other equipment stowed away on beaches.

The German mandate, which runs until May 31, 2013, limits such strikes to an area two kilometres (1.2 miles) in from the coastline and says German troops will only be permitted to go on land in cases of emergency.

In the face of sharp criticism of mission creep by centre-left opposition parties, Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere denied the beefed-up remit amounted to a radical transformation of the mandate.

“This is a small, useful, additional military operation — it doesn’t take the mission to a new level,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Brussels.

“This is about additional action on the beach, not inland.”

Germany currently has 340 military personnel participating in Atalanta.

Germany and Spain had initially voiced reservations about allowing strikes on pirate lairs but dropped their objections last month.

The German opposition continues to criticise the operation as risky overreach for the forces and has vowed to vote against it.

However the mandate is virtually assured a majority in parliament in a vote likely to take place on May 11.

The sea route off Somalia is considered the most dangerous in the world. Last year alone saw around 230 pirate attacks.

Source: AFP via Yahoo News

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