End anti-piracy air strikes - Somali fishermen

2012-05-18 11:16
Mogadishu - Somali fisherman pleaded on Friday for international navies protecting shipping to halt air strikes on coastal villages, after the EU Naval Force struck a pirate base for the first time.

An attack helicopter staged a night time raid on the Somali coastline on Tuesday, the first since the EU authorised such strikes, destroying several small boats the force said were part of pirate operations.

But fishermen on the impoverished coast said that their boats had also been destroyed, and that they feared being caught up in further attacks aimed to damage pirate operations.

"The pirates cannot be easily identified, as they mingle with the fishermen - the boats are the same and the people look alike unless they are armed," said Mohamed Hassan, a local fisherman in the Harardhere region.

"The fishermen are also victims - some of the boats destroyed by the international forces belonged to local fishermen, and we are very much worried that fishermen will die in such operations," he added.

Nato and European Union warships have battled pirates at sea since 2008, but the EU decided to step up the fight in March by authorising strikes on assets stored on land.

The attacks on Tuesday marked the first time an international naval force patrolling the pirate-infested Indian Ocean waters have struck on land after years of trying to prevent attacks at sea.

However, fisherman Kahin Abdurahman said that forces should instead send ground troops rather than air strikes to enable them to distinguish between pirates and civilians.

"The international forces should stop flying helicopters and firing missiles from the sky," Abdurahman said.

"If they need to then their operation must distinguish between local fishermen and pirates, so they must deploy foot soldiers on the ground."

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