“The fight against illegal firearms trafficking requires strong global and inter-agency collaboration, to identify the origin of these arms and bring perpetrators to justice”, stated UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly.

“Following the operational period of KAFO II, it is necessary that UNODC and INTERPOL continue working together and encourage continuing investigations and open instances”, she added.

Lucrative Small Business
More than 260 officers from police, customs and other national services in the four nations, participated in the operation, which has been conducted from 30 November to 6 December and centered on airports, seaports and land borders.

They checked over 12,000 individuals, containers, vehicles and goods from international criminal databases, and completed bodily searches, such as to ascertain if suspects were stolen travel documents or were known to police in any of INTERPOL’s 194 member nations.

Besides arresting several suspected terrorists, officers intercepted 50 firearms, more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition, and more than 40,000 sticks of dynamite as well as 28 detonator cords.

They also netted nearly 1,500 kilos of cannabis and the plant-based stimulant drug khat; some 60,000 litres of contraband fuel, and over 2,000 boxes of contraband medical medications.

“Trafficking in guns is a profitable business that, in turn, funds and fuels other types of serious offenses,” said INTERPOL Secretary General J├╝rgen Stock.

“Operation KAFO II reveals the need to join the dots between crime cases involving terrorists and firearms across different nations.”

New trends in trafficking
The combined operation also focused on disrupting the flow of illicit goods that fund terrorist and criminal actions since firearms trafficking is frequently associated with different types of contraband, the partners said.

The revelation of large quantities of contraband gas in Niger and Mali represented a new trend, they included, because it is believed the fuel came from Nigeria and was being trafficked to both finance and provide the terrorist group Al-Qaeda and its associates.

Additionally, the dynamite and detonator cords were destined for use in illegal gold mining: a new source of financing but also a potential recruiting ground for armed groups operating in the Sahel.

Meanwhile, the dozens of contraband hand sanitizer gel bottles, containers and drugs seized during the operation indicate the market for these items is booming, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coaching for arms tracing
As a result, several hundred guns recovered from the area over the past year have been identified and traced back to the countries where they were fabricated, or last legitimately imported, to track their history of ownership and motion.

This intelligence aided participating countries to target firearms trafficking suspects, networks and hotspots.

UNODC said investigations are now underway in efforts to build a strong case for prosecution.