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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

War planes strike suspected Somali pirate base: coastguard

War planes fired several missiles at a suspected Somali pirate base in the north of the war-torn country, wounding two civilians, a coastguard official said Tuesday.

"Unknown military jets fired several missiles near the village of Gumah, elders told us at least two civilians were injured," said Mohamed Abdirahman, a coastguard.

Witnesses said the aircraft struck the north-eastern coastal village, which lies some 220 kilometres (140 miles) east of Bossaso, the main port of Somalia's breakaway Puntland state.

"Two aircraft attacked the village, which is between Hafun and Bargal towns...it came from the sea, and I think they were targeting pirates," said Muse Jama, an elder.

Several other witnesses confirmed the bombardment, but could not give further details of the planes.

"Officials in the area are investigating the incident," Abdirahman added, speaking from Bossaso.

Kalashnikov-wielding pirates prowl far out across the Indian Ocean from their bases in northern Somalia, seizing foreign ships which they hold for several months demanding multi-million dollar ransoms.

Last month the European Union authorised its navies to strike Somali pirate equipment on land, with a mandate for warships or helicopters to fire at fuel barrels, boats, trucks or other equipment stowed away on beaches.

However, it was not possible to establish which nation the aircraft belonged to, and the EU force have not yet said they have ever launched such an attack.

A spokesman for Atalanta, the EU anti-piracy mission, said it was "not involved whatsoever" and declined comment on who might be behind the strike.

The United States also operates unmanned drones flying over the Horn of Africa nation, and have reportedly struck suspected Al-Qaeda allied fighters in southern Somalia.

Piracy has flourished off war-torn Somalia, outwitting international efforts -- including constant patrols by warships and tough sentencing of the pirates they capture.

The EU's anti-piracy patrol has deployed between five and 10 warships off the Somali coast since 2008 to escort humanitarian aid shipments and thwart pirate raids on commercial vessels using vital shipping lanes.

Several other nations, including Russia and China, also provide protection for their ships as they pass through the busy shipping route through the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

The pirates are believed to be holding dozens of ships and hundreds of sailors for ransom, and have also branched out into land based kidnapping.

In January, a daring US-led commando raid rescued two aid workers -- an American woman and a Danish man -- held hostage in central Somalia.

Source: AFP

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