BRUSSELS, Netherlands, March 23 (UPI) -- The European Union has agreed to extend its mission to combat piracy off Somalia through the end of 2014, officials said.
The Foreign Affairs Council made the decision Thursday, Europolitics reported.
The council, meeting in Brussels, also decided to expand the mission to include coastal areas in Somalia. Officials said that would allow the EU forces to work with the interim government in Somalia in land-based operations.
Dutch Defense Minister Hans Hillen told Radio Netherlands Worldwide he agreed with the decision.
"We've freed the sea from ruffians," he said. "Why would we give it back?"
While the number of incidents of piracy around the world dropped slightly in 2011, the waters off Somalia remain dangerous.