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INTERPOL maritime operation nets terrorist suspects

Two terrorist suspects wanted internationally under Red Notices have been arrested during an international maritime border operation coordinated by INTERPOL.

Another eight investigative leads linked to terrorism were generated during Operation Neptune IV (1 July – 3 September) which targeted terrorist suspects and other criminals involved in serious organized crime travelling via maritime routes between North Africa and Southern Europe.

The intelligence-led operation was supported by an INTERPOL team on the ground, and also targeted criminal networks involved in the drugs trade, firearms trafficking, human trafficking and people smuggling.

Officials at seaports and airports in eight countries – Algeria, Cyprus, France, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, Spain and Tunisia – carried out more than 2.6 million checks across INTERPOL’s databases for stolen and lost travel documents, nominal data and stolen vehicles via its I-24/7 secure global police communications network.

These checks generated 140 hits, resulting in 14 additional arrests following seizures worth USD 3.6 million, including: 33 kg of cocaine, some 39,400 ecstasy pills, 133 kg of cannabis, and ten stolen cars. Ten firearms were also seized.

The operation also targeted illicit migrant flows, with authorities in France, Italy and Spain arresting suspected human traffickers and people smugglers and intercepting 13 irregular migrants.

With thousands of vehicles and passengers crossing international borders via maritime routes every year, INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock said that cross-border initiatives such as Neptune demonstrate how concerted law enforcement action can disrupt terrorist threats and criminals on the move.

“We know that the threat landscape continues to evolve and so too must law enforcement responses to terrorism and transnational organized crime,” said Secretary General Stock.

“Cross-border information exchange between law enforcement agencies and partner agencies is vital to ensure frontline border officers have access to the right information at the right time.

“Operation Neptune ensures that we are coordinating law enforcement efforts at a national, regional and global level. It provides a tangible response to security threats by better targeting the illicit movement of goods and people and serious organized crime activities,” added the Secretary General.

Italian authorities in the port of Genoa also seized some EUR 250,000 in undeclared cash, which investigators suspect was part of illicit money flows towards the Middle East and North Africa region as part of terrorist financing.

INTERPOL’s databases currently hold details of more than 87,000 foreign terrorist fighters and some 1.6 million pieces of terrorist-related information.

The role of international cooperation against crime was further highlighted in the operation with experts from Europol, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) and the World Customs Organization also involved in the initiative.