The EU has agreed to expand its mission against Somali pirates, by allowing military forces to attack land targets as well as those at sea.
In a two year-extension of its Atalanta Operation, the European Union defense ministers agreed warships could target boats and fuel dumps.
The move is a significant step-up in operations, but one that also risks escalation.
Several EU naval ships are currently on patrol off the Horn of Africa.
They police shipping routes and protect humanitarian aid.
The EU says the main tasks of the mission are the protection of vessels of the World Food Programme delivering food aid to displaced people in Somalia, and the fight against piracy off the Somali coast.
In a statement, the EU’s foreign policy head Catherine Ashton said fighting piracy was a priority of the mission in the Horn of Africa.
“Today’s important decision extends [Operation] Atalanta’s mandate for two more years and allows it to take more robust action on the Somali coast,” Catherine Ashton said.
The EU said “a budget of 14.9 million Euros ($19.7 million) is provided for the common costs of the prolonged mandate”.