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Until now the operation had concentrated on stopping the pirates at sea. The move will prove controversial if it leads to an escalation of hostilities.
The operation, which started in 2008, will be extended until at least the end of 2014, and EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels said that for the first time it would cover Somali \"coastal territory and internal waters\". Ministers agreed that EU warships could target boats and fuel dumps.
The long coastline of war-ravaged Somalia provides a perfect haven for pirate gangs preying on shipping off the East African coast.
Pirate attacks on international merchant shipping in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea have been in steady decline in the past 12 months. During the first quarter of 2011, pirates captured 19 ships, while in the rest of the year they took only six. Officials say this trend has continued this year.
The EU keeps between five and 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 have dispatched naval vessels to patrol the region.