Clampdown on African firearms trafficking

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An Interpol co-ordinated police operation targeting illicit firearms in Central and West Africa saw 120 arrests and seizure of firearms, gold, drugs, fake medication, wildlife products and cash.

Operation Trigger VIII over six days in June, involved saw 520 law enforcement officials targeting 35 hotspots across Burkina Faso, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)  , Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

More than 20,000 checks were done against Interpol global databases, resulting in recovery of 480 firearms and 42 arrests tied to firearms offences. Additionally 14 organised crime networks were identified and dismantled.

Authorities seized some 6 000 firearm parts, components, ammunition and explosives as well as EUR 110,000 in cash.

Reinforced border controls and surveillance again demonstrated organised crime groups benefiting from a convergence of crimes and using the same routes for other illicit activities.

An additional 78 arrests were made in connection with trafficking in illicit goods, with more than 45 tons seized, including over three of fake medication, 1.5 tons of drugs (cannabis, amphetamines and opioids) and more than 10 000 litres of contraband petrol.

Forty tons of endangered shark species fins were recovered in Guinea and authorities in CAR dismantled a network suspected of supplying poachers with firearms and ammunition. The DRC reported seizure of 141 elephant tusks.

With illicit gold mining suspected of financing terrorism and armed militant groups in the Sahel region, authorities launched more than 85 active investigations into links between firearms trafficking, transnational organised crime and terrorism financing. Over 26 kg of illicitly mined gold and 170 kg of explosives were seized during the operation.

Souley Boubacar, Director General of Niger’s National Police, underlined “the collective security role” of Operation Trigger VIII and called for further similar operations to address regional security challenges.

In this regard investigations into terrorist financing are ongoing in Mali and Niger after illicit gold mining sites were uncovered and shut down in Mali.

The results of the operation were attributed to the Trigger operational model involving a year-long preparatory phase of awareness campaigns and national training activities in targeted regions, ending with pre-operational co-ordination and exercises in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

Training was provided on firearms identification, financial investigations, Interpol global databases and the use of the Interpol mobile device (IMD) at hotspots and border control points to check individuals and vehicles in real time.

Training also focused on profiling, identification and tracing of ammunition and explosives, as well as follow-up investigations on recovered firearms using the Interpol Illicit Arms Records and Tracing Management System (iARMS).

Operation Trigger VIII was supported by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs through Project Target and the European Union (EU) through Project Disrupt in partnership with the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).