EU mulls expanding anti-piracy mission to beaches: Germany

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The European Union is weighing expanding its anti-piracy operation off the Horn of Africa to include targeting equipment stored on Somali beaches, Germany said Friday.

The Atalanta mission is currently limited to the seas off the coast of Somalia and in the Indian Ocean, where pirates pose a major threat to international shipping.

German foreign ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said new rules of engagement "would only be considered (by the EU) to destroy pirate logistics on the beach, not deployment in the country".

He added that preliminary proposals are expected in January and that any German involvement in an expanded mission would require a new parliamentary mandate.

Defence ministry spokesman Stefan Paris said an EU security committee in Brussels had called on December 20 for new plans against pirates using the coastline to store equipment including weapons, fuel and speedboats.

Somali pirates are currently holding 200 people hostage as part of their ransom business, the anti-piracy mission said last week.

Since the start of Atalanta in December 2008, 2,317 merchant seamen have been held captive for an average of nearly five months, with 24 crew from the Dubai-owned Iceberg 1 missing for 19 months.

© 2011 AFP

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