by Staff Writers
Wroclaw, Poland (AFP) Sept 23, 2011
European Union states on Friday called for "more robust" action from the international fleet in the Indian Ocean to step up the fight against increasingly daring and well-armed pirates.
The defence ministers of the 27 EU countries also demanded a boost in spending on Atalanta, the EU's naval operation launched in 2008, at their meeting in Wroclaw, Poland, which holds the rotating six-month EU presidency.
"The pirates are building up their capabilities, ready to resume their operations once the monsoon is over," said Gerald Howarth, Britain's Minister for International Security Strategy.
"There is a limited window of opportunity for us to take more robust action," he told reporters.
The stricter stance demanded also by France and Spain could involve Atalanta vessels firing on hideouts of Somali pirates on land.
"We have brought up the possibility of action seeking to neutralise the pirates' nests on the coast. But we're not there yet," Belgian Defence Minister Pieter de Crem told AFP.
However, some European countries including Germany are sceptical, saying it goes beyond the current mandate based on a United Nations resolution.
They argue that Atalanta's primary mission is to protect the boats of the World Food Programme, carrying aid to starving, displaced Somalis.
French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet backed the use of force, citing the example of the recent liberation of a French woman taken hostage in a September 8 attack during which her husband was killed by pirates.
Evelyne Colombo was then freed unscathed by a Spanish Atalanta vessel which opened fire at the pirate boat.
The Spaniards were "efficient" because they allowed themselves to "destroy a boat and force the pirates who fell in the water... to become prisoners", said Longuet.
Some ministers also expressed "concern on a possible lack of resources" for Atalanta, which is facing a shortage of ships as of the end of the year, said Polish Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak.
They "have expressed strong support for the operation and are committed to continue it" and "engage new resources" despite budgetary restrictions forced by austerity steps affecting spending on defence, he added.
At the moment, Atalanta can reckon with a mere six ships -- two Spanish, two German, one Dutch and one French -- to cover the extremely vast area.
Somali pirates have seized at least 49 vessels and taken more than 500 hostages, according to the monitoring group Ecoterra.
The United Nations registered 171 attacks in the first half of 2011.
21st Century Pirates
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Mozambique detains Americans and Briton on piracy mission
Maputo (AFP) Sept 17, 2011
Mozambique's police briefly detained four Americans and a Briton who claimed to be on a rescue mission of a pirated ship in the Indian ocean, a spokesman said Saturday. The group brought 750 rounds of ammunition for FN 5.5mm rifles, radio transmitters and chargers without the necessary permits into the southern African country through the airport in the northern city of Nampula on Thursday, ... read more
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