LYON, France – An INTERPOL-led operation targeting illicit firearms in the Western Balkans has resulted in the arrest of 14 people and the seizure of explosives, weapons and ammunition.
Nearly 40 firearms, six kg of explosives, 11 hand grenades and 1,300 pieces of ammunition were recovered during the 48-hour Operation Balkan Trigger during which some 5,000 officers in total were deployed across Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia.
With increased concerns over the illicit trafficking of weapons from the Balkans region into Europe for use in terrorist attacks, a key factor of the INTERPOL-led operation was establishing a strong network to more effectively interdict this flow.
Around 43,000 people were stopped at border crossing points, transit routes and known hot spots throughout the region, with more than two million checks conducted against INTERPOL’s databases, including for wanted persons, stolen and lost travel documents and stolen motor vehicles.
“The recent terrorist attacks in Europe and around the world, where firearms rather than explosives have been the primary weapons, show that more effective controls are needed,” said Tim Morris, INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services.
“Operation Balkan Trigger is aimed at providing a strong base from which countries in the region can move forward in addressing the problem of weapons smuggling and also provide a blueprint for other operations around the world,” added Mr Morris.
In addition to identifying a stolen car during the operation which ran from 17 to 19 April, police also recovered 52 kg of marijuana, 14.5 kg of gold and EUR 250,000 in cash.
Officials from each of the participating countries were deployed to a coordination hub in Sarajevo, with a second hub in the Command and Coordination Centre at the INTERPOL General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon composed of specialized units and representatives from Europol.
Information gathered during the operation will now be analysed in order to identify potential links with other criminal or terrorist activity across the region and beyond.
Details of the weapons seized have been added to the INTERPOL Illicit Arms Records and tracing Management System (iARMS) which provides a centralized system for the reporting and querying of lost, stolen, trafficked and smuggled firearms by all 190 INTERPOL member countries.