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Since December 2008, the EU has kept five to 10 warships off the Horn of Africa in an operation known as Atalanta. NATO has a similar anti-piracy flotilla known as Ocean Shield, and other countries — including the United States, India, China, Russia, and Malaysia — also have dispatched naval vessels to patrol the region.

The EU Naval Force is responsible for the protection of World Food Program ships carrying humanitarian aid for Somalia, and the logistic support vessels of the African Union troops conducting operations there. It also monitors fishing activity off the coast of Somalia, which has been without a functioning government since 1991, when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown.

The EU’s more robust mandate for its naval force allows it for the first time to mount strikes against pirate targets on Somalia’s “coastal territory and internal waters.” When the policy was announced, officials said the new tactics could include using warships or their helicopters to target pirate boats moored along the shoreline, as well as land vehicles or fuel tanks used by the pirates.

The EU did not say which member nation’s forces carried out Tuesday’s raid.

But two months ago, the Atalanta force was joined by French amphibious assault ship Dixmude. The 21,000-ton ship, the largest to serve with the EU mission, is capable of acting as a mobile operating base for 16 choppers — including Tigre helicopter gunships — significantly adding to the reach of the naval force.

“Today’s action is … in line with the new mandate,” Mann said. “The EU will continue to remain active in this field.”

Lekic reported from Brussels, Belgium.