EU launches air attack on Somali pirates

The European Union's anti-piracy force attacked pirate bases along the Somali coast for the first time yesterday, using helicopters to destroy suspect boats.

Stepping up efforts against a multi-million-pound criminal enterprise that international navies have struggled to contain, the EU Naval Force (EU Navfor) said it had conducted an overnight attack using helicopters and surveillance aircraft.

It was the first time the EU had taken its fight against the pirates to Somali soil since its mandate was expanded earlier this year to allow strikes on land, as well as at sea.

One Somali pirate, who identified himself as Abdi, said a helicopter attacked the central Somali coastline near Hardhere, a pirate haven.

"It destroyed five of our hunting boats early in the morning. There were no casualties," he told Reuters. EU Navfor said it carried out the attack to destroy pirate equipment, four days after Somali gunmen hijacked a Greek oil tanker carrying almost a million barrels of crude oil.