Project Target

Combating arms trafficking in the Caribbean, Sahel and West Africa

Timeframe: April 2021 to March 2023
Budget: EUR 1 million    
Donor: German Ministry of Foreign Affairs  

The situation

Drug trafficking and gang-related incidents in the Caribbean continue to fuel the demand for illicit firearms, aggravating the overall impact of violent crimes. Despite continued seizures, most murders continue to involve firearms, highlighting the serious threat of their continued circulation and proliferation.

West Africa and the Sahel region are also home to significant security threats including attacks from terrorist groups such as Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. The ready supply of small arms and light weapons (SALW) has increased significantly as a result of political, economic and security challenges across the region.

Moreover, countries in this region have limited capacity to control and restrict the flow of illicit weapons to civilians. These firearms are not only used in terrorist attacks but have also enabled other forms of crimes, ranging from drug trafficking to people trafficking and human smuggling.

In the context of these serious threats to security and economic development, the Caribbean States developed a Firearms Roadmap in March 2020. The Roadmap aims to reinforce regulatory frameworks governing firearms and ammunition and bolster law enforcement’s capacity to combat illicit firearms and ammunition trafficking.

As part of this, law enforcement agencies need access to the necessary tools and knowledge to carry out investigations into seized firearms. At the same time, they need to trace the origin of illicit firearms to identify the trafficking routes and criminal networks and help with prosecutions.

Project aims

The overall goal of the TARGET initiative is to strengthen global safety and security within West Africa and the Sahel region.

INTERPOL can support Caribbean States to fight illicit firearms trafficking as envisaged by the Caribbean Firearms Roadmap. For instance, police worldwide can use the Illicit Arms Records and tracing Management System (iARMS) to identify firearms trafficking patterns and smuggling routes. Likewise, the Ballistic Information Network (IBIN) can reveal links between gun-related crimes in different countries, which would otherwise go undetected.

Project TARGET will help with the following:

  • Implementing standardized and harmonized procedures to recover firearms in beneficiary countries;
  • Enhancing countries’ capabilities and awareness to gather and analyse intelligence and conduct firearms investigations;
  • Promoting and strengthening cooperation and information exchange between agencies at national, regional and international levels during firearms investigations;
  • Supporting beneficiary countries in the establishment of a national firearms focal point. This focal point will be responsible for the collection and analysis of firearms trafficking and firearms-related crime.

Project activities

Through a range of targeted activities, the project will contribute to furthering international cooperation and promoting a more effective global response against illicit arms trafficking.

  • Needs assessment missions to assess training and equipment needs;
  • National and regional training courses to increase law enforcement agencies’ capacities to investigate and combat firearms trafficking;
  • Coordination of regional law enforcement operations against firearms trafficking and related crimes.

 Project updates

Needs assessment missions and National Firearms Training

During a series of missions, the INTERPOL Firearms Programme met with national law enforcement and military agencies in order to identify technical, procedural and equipment needs and to raise awareness about INTERPOL policing capabilities.

Following the official visits INTERPOL conducted a National Firearms Training course for law enforcement officers. The training course included modules on firearms identification, firearms trafficking investigations and international firearms tracing as well as new modus operandi used for firearms trafficking..  

Such training also helped establish firearm focal points and set up a workflow between police, the Gendarmerie, customs and judicial services. In this way, law enforcement officials were able to collect data relating to firearms trafficking, and the intelligence exploited to support operations, investigations and prosecutions.

Firearms Training - NDjamena, Chad, January 2022,
Firearms Training - Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, December 2021.
Firearms Training - Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), October 2021.
Firearms Training - Bangui, Central African Republic, October 2021.
Firearms Training - Georgetown, Guyana, October 2021.
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Operation Trigger VIII – West and Central Africa
13 to 19 June 2022

Operation Trigger VIII involved some 520 law enforcement officials targeting 35 hotspots across eight African countries: Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Trigger VIII targeted the movement of illicit firearms in Central and West Africa and led to some 120 arrests and the seizure of firearms, gold, drugs, fake medication, wildlife products and cash.