Terrorism and organized crime are invariably linked to the illicit trafficking of firearms, often across borders.
A recent INTERPOL-led operation codenamed Trigger-Salvo saw law enforcement from 10 countries in Central, East and Southeast Asia coordinate in a series of border enforcement actions aimed at preventing firearms trafficking and detecting any links with terrorism and organized crime.
During a two-week period (October 25 – November 5), participating law enforcement agencies conducted enhanced passenger and cargo controls at designated airports, seaports, and land borders as well as at known smuggling routes within the participating countries. Data from the screening of individuals, travel documents and vehicles was then cross-checked against INTERPOL’s global databases, enabling officers to identify wanted persons and potential threats.
The operation notably saw Mongolian law enforcement destroy a cache of 2,000 illegal firearms, seized over a period of three years.
“Mongolia’s decision to destroy these firearms symbolises our commitment to Operation Trigger-Salvo and to enhancing security in the wider region,” said Police Lieutenant Colonel Nyamdavaa Bayasgalan, Chief Inspector of Mongolia’s INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Ulaanbaatar.
Three million searches
In total, nearly 3 million searches were conducted during Operation Trigger-Salvo, yielding more than 140 hits. The vast majority concerned individuals using travel documents reported lost or stolen and 19 individuals subject to INTERPOL Red Notices were also detected.
Through cargo inspections, nearly 34,000 packages and mail items were screened while more than 1,200 packages and general cargo were thoroughly inspected. Meanwhile, more than 12,000 vehicles were searched.
These checks led to the seizure of more than 800 firearm parts and 22 firearms, as well as nearly 10,000 ecstasy tablets worth approximately EUR 290,000.
More than 1,800 immigration-related offences were also detected, resulting in 64 arrests for people smuggling and five Thai nationals arrested for facilitating, transporting, and allowing the illegal entry of a person or persons across the Thai-Myanmar Border. The migrants smuggled were being brought to work illegally in Central Thailand.
Mobile phone stun guns
Many of the firearms parts seized during Operation Trigger-Salvo were uncovered by law enforcement in Hong Kong (China), including 750 during a single inspection of an express consignment en route to Italy.
In another case at the Hong Kong International Airport several days later, customs officials recovered 10 stun guns disguised as ordinary electronics such as mobile phones and vehicle transponders.
“Curbing the transnational flow of illegal weapons in Central, East and Southeast Asia is challenging due to porous borders, difficult terrain, regional conflicts, the drug trade, and the presence of terrorist groups and organized crime syndicates,” said Karel Pelan, Assistant Director, Terrorist Networks at INTERPOL.
“Operations like Trigger-Salvo demonstrate that concrete results can be achieved in the fight against firearms trafficking when law enforcement coordinates internationally and leverages INTERPOL capabilities to keep these weapons out of the wrong hands.”
The successes of Operation Trigger-Salvo were made possible through close collaboration between the following participating countries: Brunei, Cambodia, China (including the Chinese jurisdictions of Hong Kong and Macau), Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
Operation Trigger-Salvo was funded by the Government of the People’s Republic of China and supported by ASEANAPOL and the World Customs Organization