Spain in massive drug bust on Libyan bound boat
Spanish police have seized nearly 20 tonnes of hashish in a boat heading to Libya as part of a global operation targeting the financing of armed groups in North Africa and the Middle East, authorities said on Tuesday.
Madrid was assisted by Europe's police agency Europol with air support from the Italian police, with officers intercepting the boat registered under the Panama flag off Spain's southeastern coast on 23 September.
They said all crew members were detained, which consisted of 11 Ukrainians and one Uzbek.
The Guardia Civil police force said the boat was intercepted as part of an operation launched by Spanish, Moroccan, French, Italian and Greek authorities, with support from the US Drug Enforcement Agency.
A total of seven boats have been caught in the multi-country operation, two of them carrying weapons and five full of hashish.
They had all departed from Turkey and it is believed the drugs would have been used to buy weapons.
|Investigators believe the drugs would have been used
to buy weapons [Guardia Civil]
"This trafficking is being used to finance insurgents in existing conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East," Javier Rogero, lieutenant colonel at the Guardia Civil, told reporters.
He would not be drawn on which groups the drugs and weapons were benefiting, but said police were "convinced... that they also finance jihadist terrorism".
Of the two boats intercepted with weapons on board altogether, they carried 11,400 long guns, more than a million cartridges and ten tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which can be used to make explosives.
One of the boats was heading to Misrata on Libya's northwestern coast.
The intended recipients are unclear but Misrata is home to powerful militias who were among the forces that seized the capital Tripoli in 2014 and forced the government to flee further east.
But they are now fighting alongside forces from a UN-backed unity government formed earlier this year - and re-established in Tripoli - to oust the Islamic State group from nearby Sirte.