Inside Story
Fighting Somalia's pirates onshore
Will expanding the Atalanta mission end piracy in Somalia, or will it further complicate the situation in the country?
Last Modified: 26 Mar 2012 11:36

"This is an ineffective and inefficient way of addressing the piracy issue, and this is also not comprehensive…it does not address the illegal fishing and toxic waste-dumping which Somalis consider piracy as well."

Afyare Elmi, international affairs professor, Qatar University

In a major move in the fight against piracy in Somalia, the EU has authorised its ships and helicopters to carry out missions inside the country.

The new mandate extends its so-called Atalanta mission to allow military action on land as well as at sea, with the area of operation including the land along Somalia's coastline.

The EU recently extended its anti-piracy mission to run until the end of 2014, at a cost of around $20m.

The mission, already covering the country's territorial and internal waters, now allows EU forces to attack from the sea or air.

"What we're seeing here is not a ramshackle bunch of pirates that have managed to corner an industry but you also have a direct correlation to terrorism… And this [EU] ruling is going to improve in trying to surgically strike at the pirates' operations…."

Will Geddes, international risk consultant

But EU officials insist that no ground troops will be deployed in Somalia.

Catherine Ashton, the EU chief diplomat, said: "This is a really important mission – the European Union coming together to tackle the real problem of piracy on the high seas and also the comprehensive approach to supporting the people of Somalia into a better future…"

So, can the EU's move to expand the Atalanta mission put an end to Somalia-based piracy, or would it further complicate the situation in the country? What are the risks involved?

Joining presenter Adrian Finighan to discuss these questions and more on Inside Story are guests: Yusuf Omar Al Azhari, a former political advisor to the president of Somalia, and a former ambassador to the US; Will Geddes, the managing director of International Corporate Protection, a London-based threat assessment and management company; and Afyare Elmi, a international affairs professor at Qatar University.

"I have visited the areas where these people are operating and the fishermen who first started it were not there at all. Now there are only renegades and radicals who want to benefit from it, whom I call merchants of death."

Yusuf Omar Al Azhari, former Somali ambassador to the US

Somalia piracy:

The EU's ruling extends its anti-piracy mission until December 2014 with a mandate that includes military action against targets on land. The current EU operation - known as operation Atalanta - is limited to fighting pirates at sea. It also keeps five to 10 navy vessels off the Horn of Africa, policing shipping routes near Somalia since 2008. Piracy in the Horn of Africa has reportedly declined in the last six months. NATO has its own anti-piracy mission known as Ocean Shield.

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