Helicopters attacked a pirate base 20km inland from the Somali coast last week, in the first airborne land strike by anti-piracy force, EU Naval Force. It came four days after Somali gunmen hijacked an oil tanker in the Arabian Sea, and was the first time EU Navfor had taken the fight to Somali soil, since its mandate was expanded earlier this year to allow land strikes. No EU forces actually landed on Somali territory, but earlier this year, US special forces did go 'boots dry' to rescue some hostages. However, unlike the EU operation, that wasn't a policy change - it was undertaken due to reports that the health of one hostage was deteriorating. Riiiiigghhtt!!!!!
As of the end of March, pirates still held 15 vessels and 302 hostages. In the first quarter of this year, attacks fell sharply in Somali waters thanks to international naval patrols: 43 attacks including nine hijackings, compared with 97 attacks a year ago. There are an estimated 3-5,000 pirates in Somalia.
But considering this "first time" attack was also great PR, the details seem a bit confused. Some media report one helicopter was used; others, five. Some state three skiffs and a fuel dump were destroyed; others, nine speedboats. Either way, although the pirates' losses were minimal (with the ransoms they're getting, skiffs are a dime a dozen!), the attacks do send a clear message.
But I personally advocate an even clearer one! Don't waste time with arrests and costly trials, from which they're likely to be repatriated anyway. High-velocity steel is the perfect answer.
Don't glamorise 'em - gun 'em down!