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On May 14, 2012, a combat helicopter operated by European Union Naval Forces (EUNAVFOR) struck a pirate base ashore in Somalia. The raid destroyed several fiberglass skiffs on the beach in Haradheere, a town on the coast of central Somalia. The attack represented a new tactic used in the protracted and evolving international effort to fight maritime piracy off the coast of Somalia. It was the first time that force ashore, first authorized by the United Nations Security Council in 2008, had been publicly acknowledged.

Though recently receding, piracy off the coast of Somalia has had a destabilizing effect on maritime commerce since at least 2008. The problem has not suffered from lack of attention. Navies from across the globe patrol the seas off of Somalia, many multinational conferences have addressed the issue, and dozens of articles have analyzed and suggested solutions to the problem. Many observers have explained the recent drop by pointing to the increased use of private armed security teams on commercial vessels that transit pirate-infested waters. While that may be the case, this Article examines the legal framework for a strategy that has not been attempted on any great scale — the use of military force ashore in Somalia to disrupt and deter piracy off its coast.

This analysis is important for at least two reasons. First, piracy might only be receding temporarily. Little has been done on land in Somalia to disrupt the pirates’ core infrastructure and capabilities. Indeed, as recently as August 2013, fifty-seven hostages and four vessels were still being held for ransom, though hostages continue to be released and the number has continued to drop. Second, piracy is not a new phenomenon. A close look at the legal framework for the use of force ashore that developed in this recent flare-up could yield important lessons for dealing more effectively with future problems.