European Union warships and aircraft are due to start anti-piracy patrols off the Somali coast. Six ships and three surveillance planes from at least eight EU countries, including the UK, France and Germany, will escort aid and merchant ships.

somalia-pirates-1The area, including one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, the Gulf of Aden, has seen almost 100 pirate attacks this year. It is the first naval operation in the bloc’s history. It will take over from the existing Nato mission and last at least a year.

As it begins on Monday, EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels are to approve what officials describe as robust rules of engagement. But while EU foreign ministers will authorise the use of military force, the fate of any captured pirates will be unclear.

“The EU is reviewing agreements whereby suspects could be taken by third countries that are willing and in a position to launch criminal proceedings,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

The operation is the first EU defence mission commanded by a Briton, Rear Admiral Phillip Jones, from the UK’s RAF Northwood, which oversees military operations abroad. Criminal activities in the coast of Somali have affected the easy passage of ship to their destination.



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