Terrorists, Traffickers Partner for Transatlantic Drug Flights

Jet aircraft as large as Boeing 727s are being used to ship drugs across the Atlantic on clandestine flights organized by drug traffickers and terrorist groups, according to a report prepared for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Reuters reported Jan. 14 that the air route is used to transport cocaine from areas of Colombia controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to West African regions controlled by Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which facilitates trafficking of the drugs into Europe via routes across the Sahara Desert.

At least 10 aircraft have been operating on the route since 2006, and operations are said to be expanding as traffickers take advantage of the fact that there is no radar coverage over the mid-Atlantic.

Officials worry that the flights also are being used to transport weapons and other contraband.

“You’ve got an established terrorist connection on this side of the Atlantic. Now on the Africa side you have the al-Qaeda connection and it’s extremely disturbing and a little bit mystifying that it’s not one of the top priorities of the government,” said the counternarcotics official who wrote the report for the Homeland Security department. “The bad guys have responded with their own aviation network that is out there everyday flying loads and moving contraband, and the [U.S.] government seems to be oblivious to it.”

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