MOGADISHU, Somalia, May 15 (UPI) -- An attack by a European Union helicopter destroyed several pirate skiffs at a base in Somalia without injuring anyone, officials said Tuesday.
Lt. Cmdr. Jacqueline Sherriff, a spokeswoman for the EU anti-piracy force, said planes had been conducting surveillance for some time around the village of Xarardheere, The New York Times reported. She said the helicopter attack, which used small arms fire to go after fiberglass skiffs used in raids on shipping, lasted for a couple of minutes.
"This is a fantastic opportunity,'' she said. "What we want to do is make life more difficult for these guys.''
The attack was the first under a new EU policy allowing attacks on land bases but only from the air. Until March, European naval forces had been allowed to attack pirates only at sea.
Somali-based pirates have seized hundreds of ships in the past few years, sometimes capturing vessels 2,000 miles away from their bases. They generally hold ships and crews for ransom.
Steps toward political stability in Somalia and efforts by the EU, United States and other countries to prevent seizures or recapture ships, have slowed the pirates down recently. But the pirates are thought to be holding 17 ships and 300 hostages.