Illicit firearms: over 1,700 arrested in landmark operation across Asia

15 December 2023
Operation Trigger-Salvo II targets cross-border movement of illegal weapons

LYON, France – In the first operation coordinated across Asia by INTERPOL against illicit firearms, authorities in 10 countries have made over 1,700 arrests and seized 714 firearms, 921 parts and components, and 45,383 rounds of ammunition.

From 13 – 24 November, Operation Trigger-Salvo II aimed to disrupt the cross-border movement of firearms, and determine potential links between transnational organized criminal groups, firearms trafficking and terrorists.

In Central, South and East Asia, small and light weapons have become the norm for terrorist groups and criminal organizations as they are inexpensive and easy to conceal, transport and access.

This was evidenced in Pakistan, where several hundred firearms, their parts, and ammunition were recovered, mainly in the provinces bordering with Afghanistan. This led to 614 arrests, new investigations and greater insights into the routes used by trucks from Afghanistan to ferry firearms and ammunition into Pakistan.

Trigger Salvo Infographic

Mohsin Hassan Butt, Director General of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency, said:

“Trigger-Salvo II was an important opportunity to disrupt the trafficking of firearms in border provinces with Afghanistan and to build a better understanding of trafficking routes to Pakistan and Central Asia.  Firearms from Afghanistan are a threat to Pakistan and Central Asia and we are in greater need to limit the diversion and trafficking of these firearms to neighbouring countries and beyond. We hope to repeat this type of initiative in the future.”

Curbing the transnational flow of illegal weapons is even more challenging in the region due to the high number of sophisticated firearms in circulation, porous borders, difficult terrain, and regional conflicts.

This security landscape is further complicated by the convergence of terrorist groups, foreign terrorist fighters and transnational organized criminal syndicates. The presence of such crime groups was highlighted when 254 suspected victims of human trafficking were rescued in the Philippines.

With trafficked weapons and associated criminal activities representing a funding source for criminals and terrorists, the operation also netted approximately 4.7 tons of drugs, while authorities in Kyrgyzstan seized 52 kg of gold ingots worth some USD 3.27 million.

INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock said:

“Illicit firearms facilitate other types of crime and pose a threat to regional and global security, whilst providing lucrative profits for criminals."

“Through Operation Trigger Salvo II, INTERPOL’s role has been to help member countries not only remove illicit weapons from circulation, but strike at the transnational crime networks which often rely on existing smuggling routes to traffic weapons.” Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary General
There were 614 arrests in Pakistan, where several hundred firearms, their parts, and ammunition were recovered.
The operation netted approximately 4.7 tons of drugs.
Authorities in Kyrgyzstan seized 52 kg of gold ingots worth some USD 3.27 million.
Mongolia was among the countries where INTERPOL mobile devices were deployed to border checkpoints, allowing for instant checks against its global databases.
Transport routes from Afghanistan to Pakistan were closely monitored during the operation.
Firearms compliance checks were held in Mongolia during Trigger Salvo II.

INTERPOL mobile devices were deployed to border checkpoints during the operation, allowing for instant checks against its global databases. These generated 92 hits, including 13 for individuals targeted by INTERPOL notices. Among these, a Korean national wanted internationally under a Red Notice for his alleged links to prostitution rings was arrested in the Philippines, where a Japanese national tied to the Luffy organized crime group behind financial scams and robberies was also arrested.

Through operations such as Trigger Salvo, in partnership with the World Customs Organization (WCO) INTERPOL is supporting Central and Southeastern Asian law enforcement authorities to conduct further cross-border operations targeting the trafficking of firearms and other goods.

The operation was funded by China’s Ministry of Public Security.

Participating countries: Brunei, China (including Hong Kong and Macao), Indonesia, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore.