Police in Guinea-Bissau seized more than 1.8 tonnes of cocaine hidden in flour bags – the biggest seizure in the country’s history, authorities said.
Police said the drugs arrived by sea in the country’s north-west. After a two-week intelligence operation, police arrested eight people: four Bissau-Guineans, three Colombians and a Malian, the force said.
It was the second large drug shipment intercepted this year in the former Portuguese colony, long a major crossing point for Latin American cocaine headed to Europe. An 800 kg haul was seized in March.
Guinea-Bissau is home to 1,8 million people and covers just 10 800 square miles. Its plethora of remote islands and unpoliced mangrove creeks make it ideal territory for smugglers.
Police said the latest shipment was en route to Islamist militants: “The drugs belong to terrorist network Al Qaeda. The cocaine comes from Colombia. The destination is the Arab Maghreb,” said Domingos Monteiro, deputy director of the judicial police.
Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in north and West Africa is based in northern and central Mali and has a presence across the region. Authorities have long suggested it is involved in drug trafficking in the lawless Sahara desert.
For years, the United Nations described Guinea-Bissau as a “narco state” in which drug traffickers were so powerful they controlled parts of government. After the arrest of politicians implicated by the United States’ Drug Enforcement Administration in 2012, Bissau’s cocaine traffic either declined or went underground.