Thursday, April 19, 2012
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.