Sweden Readies Anti-Pirate EU Mission

In just four weeks, Sweden will take over responsibility for Operation Atalanta, an EU-led force off the coast of Somalia charged with patrolling the area to prevent piracy. The operation's most important task will be protecting the UN World Food Program's distribution in Somalia.

But the Swedish admiral in charge of the force, Jan Thörnqvist, explains that the force will also keep watch on other crimes of the seas, such as illegal dumping of dangerous chemicals and overfishing.

"The EU force is simply there to keep track of what is happening in Somali water," he told SR International.

Thörnqvist will have seven to ten large ships, five planes, several helicopters, and a number of different kinds of weapons at his disposal to complete the mission.

The admiral says the operation's goal is to ensure a better daily life for Somalis.

"We have already contributed to the fact that between 1.5 and 2 million people eat one meal per day. That is to say, we are helping them avoid starvation and get the necessities and health care they need."

Thörnqvist is not overly idealistic when discussing the mission, however.

"We are not going to solve the problem. No one fancies that. We will help the Somalis get on their feet and have a go at their own problems. But that takes time," he said in the interview.

Sweden will be in charge of Operation Atalanta from April 14 through August 14 this year.

The EU force has escorted about 60 World Food Program ships with over 300,000 tons of food to Somalia since it began patrolling the area in 2007.

In the process, over 90 pirates have been captured, and 181 pirate attacks foiled.

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