- Jul 22, 2008
It's about time too.
The European Union has agreed to expand its mission against Somali pirates, by allowing military forces to attack land targets as well as those at sea.
In a two-year extension of its mission, EU defence ministers agreed warships could target boats and fuel dumps.
The BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner says the move is a significant step-up in operations, but one that also risks escalation.
Up to 10 EU naval ships are currently on patrol off the Horn of Africa.
They have policed shipping routes and protected humanitarian aid since 2008. The extension means they will stay until at least December 2014.
An EU official said the new mandate would allow warships or helicopters to fire at fuel barrels, boats, trucks or other equipment on beaches, according to Agence France-Presse.
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told reporters: "The EU plan is to allow attacks on land installations when ships are assaulted at sea," adding that "much care" would be taken to avoid civilian deaths.
A two-decade war has wrecked Somalia, leaving it without a proper government.
The transitional government only controls the capital Mogadishu, while al-Shabab militants, who recently joined with al-Qaeda, hold large swathes of territory.
The EU says the main tasks of the mission are the protection of vessels of the World Food Programme delivering food aid to displaced people in Somalia, and the fight against piracy off the Somali coast.
"Today's important decision extends [Operation] Atalanta's mandate for two more years and allows it to take more robust action on the Somali coast," the EU's foreign policy head Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
The statement said the EU would be working with Somalia's transitional federal government and other Somali organisations to support their fight against piracy from the coastal area.
Brussels also said the Somali government had told the UN secretary general that it accepted its new offer of collaboration.
The statement also said "a budget of 14.9m euros (£12.4m; $19.7m) is provided for the common costs of the prolonged mandate".
In February world leaders agreed to boost support for measures to fight piracy, terrorism and political instability in Somalia, at a conference held in London.
The summit agreed a seven-point plan promising more humanitarian aid, support for African Union peacekeepers and better international co-ordination.
It's about time too.