Somalia Pirates: EU Approves Attacks On Land Bases

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.

The EU says fighting piracy is a priority of the mission in the Horn of AfricaThe 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.

Several EU naval ships are currently on patrol off the Horn of Africa.

They police shipping routes and protect humanitarian aid.

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.

In a statement, the EU's foreign policy head Catherine Ashton said fighting piracy was a priority of the mission in the Horn of Africa.

"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," she said.

The EU says it will be working with Somalia's transitional federal government and other Somali organisations to support their fight against piracy from the coastal area.

The EU also said the Somali government had told the UN secretary general that it accepted its new offer of collaboration.

The EU said "a budget of 14.9m euros (£12.4m; $197m) is provided for the common costs of the prolonged mandate".