Several “suspected terrorists” were arrested and more than 40,000 sticks of dynamite and detonator cords for illegal gold mining — a new source of funding for armed groups in the Sahel — were seized in a joint operation with the UN, Interpol said on Monday.
Jointly coordinated by Interpol and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the seven-day Operation KAFO II targeted smuggling hotspots at airports, seaports, and land borders in Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali, and Niger.
Officers also seized dozens of firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
The operation was aimed at disrupting the trafficking networks used to supply “terrorists” across West Africa and the Sahel, Interpol said.
“Trafficking in firearms is a lucrative business which, in turn, fuels and funds other types of serious crimes,” said Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock. “Operation KAFO II shows the need to connect the dots between crime cases involving firearms and terrorists across different countries.”
Interpol said another new trend highlighted by the operation was the large quantities of contraband gasoline seized in Niger and Mali.
“It is believed the fuel came from Nigeria, and was trafficked to both finance and supply Al-Qaeda and its affiliates.”
It added that illegal gold mining, in addition to being a source of funding for armed groups, was also being used as a recruitment ground.
Against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, officers also seized large quantities of contraband hand sanitizer gel, gloves, and drugs.