Somali Pirates
There are about 3,500 pirate vessels in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden. Floating armories save clients time and money as they negate the need for vessels to dock and load their armed escorts before sailing through pirate-infested waters. Reuters

European Union naval forces carried out an attack in Somalia on Tuesday, using helicopters and two warships in a focused, precise and proportionate strike against known pirate supplies.

“We believe this action will further increase the pressure on [pirates], and disrupt pirates’ efforts to get out to sea to attack merchant shipping and dhows,” Rear Admiral Duncan Potts, operation commander of the EU Naval Force, stated.

“The local Somali people and fishermen -- many of whom have suffered so much because of piracy in the region -- can be reassured that our focus was on known pirate supplies and will remain so in the future.

The EU has engaged with pirates at sea in the past, but an extension of Operation Atalanta approved in March gave warships permission to attack weaponry and equipment -- including fuel barrels, boats and trucks -- on Somali beaches. There are now around 10 European vessels patrolling the coast of Somali and the Gulf of Aden, and the United States, China, Russia, Japan and India also have boats in the area.

Fighting piracy and its root causes is a priority of our action in the Horn of Africa, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement at the time.

Operation Atalanta has made a significant contribution to this effort, in coordination with our international partners, she said. Today's important decision ... allows it to take more robust action on the Somali coast.

Tuesday's raid resulted in the destruction of at least five skiffs, which were shot at by helicopters. The boats had been pulled onshore near the main pirate town of Haradheere on Somalia's lawless northern coast.

Somali pirates cost the global shipping industry between $7 billion and $12 billion in 2011 through ransom payments and higher operation costs, according to a Reuters report. But Operation Atalanta is also meant to protect World Food Programme ships, which carry food and humanitarian aid to refugees and other displaced people in Somalia.

Piracy has caused so much misery to the Somali people and to the crews of ships transiting the area and it is right that we continue to move forward in our efforts, Potts told the AFP in March.

There are some 17 ships and 300 crewmembers being held by Somali pirates. The latest pirate attack was the hijacking of Greek-owned, Liberian-flagged oil tanker Smyrni off the coast of Oman last week, the BBC reported.

The EU's counter-piracy program is supported by Somalia's transitional government, and forces on Tuesday made sure not to step foot on land. No one was injured in the attack.