A huge haul of arms and drugs was seized from a trafficking network run by Syrian nationals, Spain's police said Tuesday.
A total of 109 people were arrested and 100 tons of hashish, 11,400 firearms, over a million ammunition rounds and 10 tons of explosives were seized in an international operation against a trafficking network that sold drugs to arm jihadist groups in countries like Libya.
The joint operation was carried out by security forces from Spain, Italy, France and Greece, coordinated by the Europol law enforcement agency and assisted by the United States drug enforcement agency.
With the drug money, the Syrian-run group would finance arms purchases for jihadist militia groups in the eastern Mediterranean basin.
At a press conference in Madrid, Lieutenant Colonel Javier Rogero of the Spanish police's organized crime unit said that during the international 'Urca' operation they had stopped seven boats, five of which were carrying drugged and the other two stocked with arms.
All of them had come from Turkey, where the network, run by Syrians, had its headquarters.
The boats had reportedly been acquired at a very low price due to their bad state.
This included a boat registered to Bolivia that had been abandoned for years in Malaga, Spain, that was found with 5,000 rifles and 500,000 bullet cartridges, having been acquired by a Syrian-Lebanese business in 2014.
Another boat with a Togolese flag was detained by Greek security and found to be carrying 6,400 rifles, 570,000 cartridges and 10 tons of ammonium nitrate which was destined for the Islamic State terrorist stronghold of Misrata, Libya.
Hashish was found on a vessel that had been loaded in high seas and was headed from Morocco to Egypt and Libya.
Terrestrial trafficking routes were also discovered, whereby hashish would be brought overland through Mauritania, Mali and Nigeria to Libya where much of it was then sold in Egypt.
With help from the Moroccan police, Spanish police were able to carry out several interventions on the North African overland smuggling routes and arrest a key member of the trafficking group in Spain.
Nonetheless, detained boats brought in the biggest hauls of hashish, with the civil guard seizing 36 of the 100 tons discovered since the operation began.
The ensuing arrests implicated eleven Ukrainian nationals and an Uzbek, all of whom are already serving prison sentences.
The remaining 97 detainees include 34 Syrians, 26 Moroccans, 14 Spaniards as well as Turks, Indians and other nationalities.
Rogero clarified that the majority of the detained were crew members on board the vessels with the aim of financial gain rather than being adherents to jihad.
Another boat capture of the Egyptian coast was found to contain 1.2 million capsules of Captagon, an amphetamine stimulant used by the IS terrorists before the attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015 that killed 130.