Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mystery Surrounds European Union Raid in Somalia

The initial story last week received little attention from the global media: a raid carried out by helicopters from unidentified naval vessels belonging to European Union members destroyed several fast attack boats used by Somali pirates in the port city of Haradheere.  The attack was mostly noteworthy in that it was the first reported attack on Somali pirates in one of their port cities and a rare military action by the European Union.  But all is not apparently as it seems with the story of the raid.

The European website DefenseReport claims that the Haradheere raid was carried out not by helicopters, but by actual EU troops on the ground.  If true, this would mark a new, dramatically different approach to dealing with the Somali pirate problem.

According DefenseReport, ground troops were used to ensure that there would not be any civilian casualties in Haradheere and to guarantee that high-speed, high-horsepower (and hard to acquire) engines of the skiffs Somali pirates use to surround and board target vessels would be destroyed in the raid.  According to a military official familiar with the raid, only by using ground forces could you be sure that the engines themselves were destroyed.  Some confirmation of the ground troops story came when records showed that the only EU vessel capable of launching the helicopter raid as described was no where near Haradheere on the night of the raid.

Some military officials have wanted to use troops against pirate strongholds like Haradheere for some time since intercepting pirates in the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean is a hit-and-miss affair.  It seems that the go-ahead was finally given because more and more ships sailing through the Indian Ocean/Gulf of Aden sea lanes off of Somalia - which is the route to the Red Sea, Suez Canal and Europe – are using armed security guards, a situation which has led to some unfortunate shooting incidents with innocent fishing vessels mistaken for pirates by jumpy ship guards.

On a related note, if the European Union is starting to undertake their own military missions as a group rather than as individual nations, what does this mean for the future of NATO, which is suppose to serve as the pan-European organization to promote military cooperation among the Europeans?    
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