Over 14,000 people have been arrested and 8,000 weapons seized in an anti-firearms operation across Central and South America, Interpol said Tuesday.
As well as weapons, the raids swept up over 200 tonnes of cocaine and other drugs worth $5.7 billion, as well as 370 tonnes of drug precursors (chemical ingredients), the France-based police cooperation body said in a statement.
Dubbed “Trigger IX”, it was “the biggest firearms operation ever coordinated by Interpol,” it added.
“The fact that an operation targeting illicit firearms resulted in such massive drugs seizures is further proof, if needed, that these crimes are intertwined,” Interpol chief Juergen Stock said in the statement.
Beyond the people arrested and guns seized, police and other authorities also laid their hands on 305,000 rounds of ammunition.
A 100,000-round haul in Uruguay “trafficked internationally by two European nationals” was “the country’s largest-ever such seizure”, Interpol said.
The body said its actions had helped uncover other crimes including “corruption, fraud, human trafficking, environmental crime and terrorist activities”.
Members of the Balkans Cartel, Brazilian organised crime outfit PrimeiRo Comando da Capital and El Salvador’s Mara Salvatrucha mafia were all arrested over arms trafficking, while 11 trafficked people were freed in Paraguay.
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay participated, while the operation itself was funded by the European Union.
Trigger IX drew in police forces as well as other law enforcement agencies such as the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).