Italy seizes $58m worth of Daesh ‘fighter drug’

Italy seizes $58m worth of Daesh ‘fighter drug’
Italian police (AFP)
Updated 04 November 2017

Italy seizes $58m worth of Daesh ‘fighter drug’

Italy seizes $58m worth of Daesh ‘fighter drug’

ROME: Italian police have seized €50 million ($58 million) worth of tablets of a synthetic opiate destined to be sold by Daesh in Libya to raise funds for attacks, a court said on Friday.
Financial police discovered over 24 million Tramadol tablets being transported from India to Libya at the port of Gioia Tauro in southern Italy.
The painkiller has been described as the “fighter drug,” as it is known to be popular among terrorists for its ability to dull pain and suppress fatigue.
The haul is estimated to be worth €50 million, and was found following a police crackdown sparked by the discovery of a similar shipment in Genoa in May.
Investigators believe Daesh planned to sell the tablets to its foot soldiers for the equivalent of €2 a tablet.
“According to the information shared with foreign investigative sources, the traffic of Tramadol is directly handled by IS (Daesh) to finance terrorist activities planned and carried out across the world,” the court in the southern city of Reggio Calabria said.
Part of the money raised from the sales would also go “to subsidise terrorist groups and extremists operating in Libya, Syria and Iraq,” it said in a statement.
The court said the seizure had been possible thanks in part to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
“Everything passes through Gioia Tauro, we can’t really be surprised to uncover trafficking of this type of drug,” prosecutor Gaetano Paci told La Repubblica daily.
But investigators said it suggested ties between the mafia and Daesh: It is impossible to smuggle goods through the port without the agreement of the powerful ‘Ndrangheta organized crime group, which has a steely grip on the zone.
“We’ve known about dealings between the ‘Ndrangheta and organizations in the Middle East for a while,” Paci said.
“Although the port has become less of a ‘safe zone’ for clans due to investigative pressures, we have identified several different ‘Ndrangheta families that seem involved in trafficking with Middle East organizations,” he said.
Renzo Nisi, a financial police captain involved in the May operation in Genoa, said Tramadol, a powerful painkiller, “is produced extremely cheaply in India and Pakistan.”
“The pills are used by fighters, terrorists, but by others too because they lower fatigue levels. You need to take four to five a day to get the results,” he told Italian media.
Dependence on the drug, which is also used by Boko Haram fighters in Nigeria, has become a serious social problem in parts of Africa and the Middle East.
 


Charity rescue ship carrying 373 African migrants docks in Sicily

The Ocean Viking ship seen from the Italian island of Lampedusa, Sicily. (AFP/File Photo)
The Ocean Viking ship seen from the Italian island of Lampedusa, Sicily. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 48 sec ago

Charity rescue ship carrying 373 African migrants docks in Sicily

The Ocean Viking ship seen from the Italian island of Lampedusa, Sicily. (AFP/File Photo)
  • The Ocean Viking vessel had been waiting in heavy swells to get clearance from authorities
  • Many migrants recounted stories of alleged abuses suffered in Libya

ROME: A charity rescue ship carrying 373 migrants picked up off the Libyan coast has been allowed to dock in the Italian port of Augusta, in Sicily.

The Ocean Viking vessel had been waiting in heavy swells to get clearance from authorities for its passengers to disembark.

The migrants — who included 165 children of which 21 were aged under four — had been plucked from four packed dinghies and were mostly from south Saharan countries in Africa. They had told rescuers they were fleeing from camps in Libya where they feared for their lives.

Many recounted stories of alleged abuses suffered in Libya, with some having already attempted sea crossings to Europe only to be intercepted and transported back to the Libyan camps.

One of those rescued, Kylian, 19, from Mali, told Arab News: “In Libya we were all crammed into one home and we weren’t free to go where we wanted. I was out when bandits came, and I wanted to run to warn the others in the camp. When they fired, I fell to the ground. They thought that I was dead, and they just left me there.”

The man said he was wounded but could not access medical care in the camp. “I thought I was going to die. This happens all the time in Libya. I was finally treated because a friend took me to a Cameroonian woman who was doctor.”

The teenager was speaking on the phone of a volunteer from the maritime humanitarian organization SOS Mediterranee. All the migrants will be transferred to a quarantine ship after being tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Luisa Albera, rescue coordinator on the Ocean Viking, told Arab News: “From the survivors, we have heard gruesome tales of the inhumane treatment they had to endure in Libya.

“The last three days at sea have been extremely hard for those people, as the weather has worsened rapidly. Several babies and small children were on board; they have particularly suffered from seasickness.”

She pointed out that more than 1,200 people had died last year while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

“We are relieved that the 373 people on board our ship managed to reach a safe port, but the international community must do more to save people in the Mediterranean. Too many lives depend on this.

“EU member states must find a sustainable solution and set up a rapid disembarkation mechanism, supporting European coastal states such as Italy and Malta and working to respect international maritime law on our common coasts to the south,” Albera said.

Prior to the Ocean Viking being given permission to dock in Augusta, a heavily pregnant woman was taken from the ship to the Italian island of Lampedusa by an Italian coastguard vessel.

Italy has repeatedly impounded charity vessels for safety violations, a policy that charities claim is often a tactic to keep them from performing rescues.

The Ocean Viking is currently the only charity ship operating off Libya’s coast, although Libyan coastguard ships are also patrolling, assisted by the EU, and have intercepted 300 migrants and returned them to Libya this month.