Turkiye steps up commitment to combat cross-border drug networks

Turkiye steps up commitment to combat cross-border drug networks
A screengrab taken from a video showing the Turkish police, in a collaborative effort between Croatian and Turkish authorities and bolstered by Interpol’s support, arresting Croatian drug trafficker Nenad Petrak on Saturday in Istanbul. (X/@haskologlu)
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Updated 18 November 2023
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Turkiye steps up commitment to combat cross-border drug networks

Turkiye steps up commitment to combat cross-border drug networks
  • Direct, unacknowledged relationship exists between transnational criminal activities, regional stability in international relations, analyst says
  • Petrak’s capture unfolded in Uskudar, located on the Anatolian side of Istanbul, as part of the broader Europe-wide initiative termed Operation Adriatica

ANKARA: In a collaborative effort between Croatian and Turkish authorities, bolstered by Interpol’s support, Turkiye played a pivotal role in the apprehension of Nenad Petrak, a Croatian drug trafficker, during the early hours of Saturday in Istanbul.
The meticulously executed Operation Cartel-2 led to the arrest of Petrak, who was on Interpol’s red notice list for his alleged involvement in ferrying narcotics from South America into Europe.
He stands accused as the mastermind behind an expansive transnational criminal network involving widespread drug trafficking operations.
Petrak’s capture unfolded in Uskudar, located on the Anatolian side of Istanbul, as part of the broader Europe-wide initiative termed Operation Adriatica.
The Croatian Office for the Suppression of Corruption and Organized Crime’s report delineates Petrak’s footprint as a drug dealer operating across nine countries, a testament to the international scale of his illicit activities.
Turkish authorities had vigilantly tracked Petrak for an extended period, culminating in his apprehension during this operation.
Turkiye has intensified its anti-drug measures in recent weeks, signaling a concerted effort catalyzed further by the appointment of a new interior minister who has conducted dozens of anti-narcotics operations across the country.
This strategic push has reverberated across the region, marking a substantial impact on combating cross-border drug-related offenses.
Colin P. Clarke, director of research at The Soufan Group, thinks this is a crucial arrest against a critical node in transnational organized crime.
“So much of the international community’s efforts are focused strictly on counterterrorism, but taking down drug cartels is also essential to ensuring domestic stability,” he told Arab News.
“As we’ve seen with some of the drug trafficking groups in Europe, when these organizations grow too powerful, they can pose a significant danger to the public and the security services.”
Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya took to his social media platform to affirm the nation’s commitment to eradicating domestic and international organized crime networks, denouncing them as purveyors of toxicity.
“Our resolve to rid our nation of these criminal organizations and drug peddlers remains resolute,” Yerlikaya said.
“Our relentless pursuit against drug traffickers and organized crime syndicates will escalate with unwavering determination.”
Petrak’s capture is expected to contribute to the ongoing global fight committed to dismantling drug cartels.
Last week, the ringleader of Kompanio Bello, another drug cartel, who was wanted with a red notice, was apprehended in Istanbul.
Authorities in Albania and Italy were seeking him for charges including “intentional homicide, drug trafficking, kidnapping, deprivation of liberty, forging travel documents, and (illegally) providing weapons and ammunition.”
The cartel leader Dritan Rexhepi had been put under international surveillance for a long time and entered Turkiye through Istanbul Airport with a Colombian passport under the alias Benjamin Omar Perez Garcia.
The operation was carried out through intelligence sharing with the Italian police.
Ersel Aydinli, professor at the international relations department at Bilkent University in Ankara, said a direct but unacknowledged relationship exists between transnational criminal activities and regional stability in international relations.
“When states fail to have good cooperation practices, this can lead to a potential surge in transnational illicit activities, from terrorism to organized crime. In recent decades, our region has seen high levels of human mobility, and along with this, naturally, a rise in levels of cross-border organized crime,” he told Arab News.
“As societies start to feel the effects of this, they put pressure on their governments, which in return begin cooperating more on these matters, using existing international instruments and agencies such as Interpol and Europol.”
According to Prof. Aydinli, these recent high-profile arrests indicate that states can collect valuable intelligence, share it effectively, and achieve concrete outcomes.
“They signal an end to any brief sense people might have had of a loss of control over these criminal networks and are also a signal to the criminal networks themselves that the era of relaxed business is over,” he said.
For Aydinli, regional security is always based on governments’ willingness to cooperate.
“These types of practices of cooperation are thus crucial because they serve as the foundations for larger security cooperation in the sense of being trust and confidence-building measures among the states and within the intergovernmental institutional capacities,” he said.
Turkish authorities apprehended in early July Isaac Bignan, also known as the “Black Mamba,” and Jurean Anthony Finix, a Dutch national — two key figures in the criminal organization led by Dutch drug lord Joseph Johannes Leijdekkers. They were both wanted by Interpol with a red notice.


Gaza hospital says 20 killed in Israeli strike on Nuseirat

Gaza hospital says 20 killed in Israeli strike on Nuseirat
Updated 19 May 2024
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Gaza hospital says 20 killed in Israeli strike on Nuseirat

Gaza hospital says 20 killed in Israeli strike on Nuseirat
  • Hospital statement: Israeli air strike targeted a house belonging to the Hassan family in Al-Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: A Gaza hospital said Sunday that an Israeli air strike targeting a house at a refugee camp in the center of the Palestinian territory killed at least 20 people.
“We received 20 fatalities and several wounded after an Israeli air strike targeted a house belonging to the Hassan family in Al-Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza,” the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital said in a statement.
Witnesses said the strike occurred around 3:00 a.m. local time. The Israeli army said it was checking the report.
Palestinian official news agency Wafa reported that the wounded included several children, and rescuers were searching for missing people trapped under the rubble.
Fierce battles and heavy Israeli bombardments have been reported in the central Nuseirat camp since the military launched a “targeted” operation focussing on the southern city of Rafah in early May.
Palestinian militants and Israeli troops have also clashed in north Gaza’s Jabalia camp for days now.
Witnesses said several other houses were targeted in air strikes during the night across Gaza, and that air strikes and artillery shelling also hit parts of Rafah during the night.
The Israeli military said two more soldiers were killed in Gaza the previous day.
The military said 282 soldiers have been killed so far in the Gaza military campaign since the start of the ground offensive on October 27.


Houthi missile strikes China-bound oil tanker in Red Sea

Houthi missile strikes China-bound oil tanker in Red Sea
Updated 19 May 2024
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Houthi missile strikes China-bound oil tanker in Red Sea

Houthi missile strikes China-bound oil tanker in Red Sea
  • The vessel and crew are safe and continuing to its next port of call: UKMTO
  • The incident occurred 76 nautical miles (140 kilometers) off Yemen’s Hodeidah

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s Houthi militia launched an anti-ship ballistic missile into the Red Sea on Saturday morning, striking an oil tanker traveling from Russia to China, according to US Central Command, the latest in a series of Houthi maritime strikes. 

CENTCOM said that at 1 a.m. on Saturday, a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile struck a Panamanian-flagged, Greek-owned and operated oil tanker named M/T Wind, which had just visited Russia and was on its way to China, causing “flooding which resulted in the loss of propulsion and steering.”

Slamming the Houthis for attacking ships, the US military said: “The crew of M/T Wind was able to restore propulsion and steering, and no casualties were reported. M/T Wind resumed its course under its power. This continued malign and reckless behavior by the Iranian-backed Houthis threatens regional stability and endangers the lives of mariners across the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.”

Earlier on Saturday, two UK naval agencies said that a ship sailing in the Red Sea suffered minor damage after being hit by an item thought to be a missile launched by Yemen’s Houthi militia from an area under their control.

The UK Maritime Trade Operations, which monitors ship attacks, said on Saturday morning that it received an alarm from a ship master about an “unknown object” striking the ship’s port quarter, 98 miles south of Hodeidah, inflicting minor damage.

“The vessel and crew are safe and continuing to its next port of call,” UKMTO said in its notice about the incident, encouraging ships in the Red Sea to exercise caution and report any incidents.

Hours earlier, the same UK maritime agency stated that the assault happened 76 nautical miles northwest of Hodeidah.

Ambrey, a UK security firm, also reported receiving information regarding a missile strike on a crude oil tanker traveling under the Panama flag, around 10 nautical miles southwest of Yemen’s government-controlled town of Mokha on the Red Sea, which resulted in a fire on the ship.

The Houthis did not claim responsibility for fresh ship strikes on Saturday, although they generally do so days after the attack.

Since November, the Houthis have seized a commercial ship, sunk another, and claimed to have fired hundreds of ballistic missiles at international commercial and naval ships in the Gulf of Aden, Bab Al-Mandab Strait, and Red Sea in what the Yemeni militia claims is support for the Palestinian people.

The Houthis claim that they solely strike Israel-linked ships and those traveling or transporting products to Israel in order to pressure the latter to cease its war in Gaza.

The US responded to the Houthi attacks by branding them as terrorists, forming a coalition of marine task forces to safeguard ships, and unleashing hundreds of strikes on Houthi sites in Yemen.

Local and international environmentalists have long warned that Houthi attacks on ships carrying fuel or other chemicals might lead to an environmental calamity near Yemen’s coast.

The early warning came in February when the Houthis launched a missile that seriously damaged the MV Rubymar, a Belize-flagged and Lebanese-operated ship carrying 22,000 tonnes of ammonium phosphate-sulfate NPS fertilizer and more than 200 tonnes of fuel while cruising in the Red Sea. 

The Houthis have defied demands for de-escalation in the Red Sea and continue to organize massive rallies in regions under their control to express support for their campaign. On Friday, thousands of Houthi sympathizers took to the streets of Sanaa, Saada, and other cities under their control to show their support for the war on ships.

The Houthis shouted in unison, “We have no red line, and what’s coming is far worse,” as they raised the Palestinian and militia flags in Al-Sabeen Square on Friday, repeating their leader’s promise to intensify assaults on ships.

Meanwhile, a Yemeni government soldier was killed and another was injured on Saturday while fending off a Houthi attack on their position near the border between the provinces of Taiz and Lahj.

According to local media, the Houthis attacked the government’s Nation’s Shield Forces in the contested Hayfan district of Taiz province, attempting to capture control of additional territory.

The Houthis were forced to stop their attack after encountering tough resistance from government troops.

The attack occurred a day after the Nation’s Shield Forces sent dozens of armed vehicles and personnel to the same locations to boost their forces and repel Houthi attacks. 


Israel war cabinet minister says to quit unless Gaza plan approved

Israel war cabinet minister says to quit unless Gaza plan approved
Updated 19 May 2024
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Israel war cabinet minister says to quit unless Gaza plan approved

Israel war cabinet minister says to quit unless Gaza plan approved
  • The Israeli army has been battling Hamas militants across the Gaza Strip for more than seven months

JERUSALEM: Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz said Saturday he would resign from the body unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved a post-war plan for the Gaza Strip.

“The war cabinet must formulate and approve by June 8 an action plan that will lead to the realization of six strategic goals of national importance.. (or) we will be forced to resign from the government,” Gantz said, referring to his party, in a televised address directed at Netanyahu.

Gantz said the six goals included toppling Hamas, ensuring Israeli security control over the Palestinian territory and returning Israeli hostages.

“Along with maintaining Israeli security control, establish an American, European, Arab and Palestinian administration that will manage civilian affairs in the Gaza Strip and lay the foundation for a future alternative that is not Hamas or (Mahmud) Abbas,” he said, referring to the president of the Palestinian Authority.

He also urged the normalization of ties with Saudi Arabia “as part of an overall move that will create an alliance with the free world and the Arab world against Iran and its affiliates.”

Netanyahu responded to Gantz’s threat on Saturday by slamming the minister’s demands as “washed-up words whose meaning is clear: the end of the war and a defeat for Israel, the abandoning of most of the hostages, leaving Hamas intact and the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

The Israeli army has been battling Hamas militants across the Gaza Strip for more than seven months.

But broad splits have emerged in the Israeli war cabinet in recent days after Hamas fighters regrouped in northern Gaza, an area where Israel previously said the group had been neutralized.

Netanyahu came under personal attack from Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Wednesday for failing to rule out an Israeli government in Gaza after the war.

The Gaza war broke out after Hamas’s attack on October 7 on southern Israel which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

The militants also seized about 250 hostages, 124 of whom Israel estimates remain in Gaza, including 37 the military says are dead.

Israel’s military retaliation against Hamas has killed at least 35,386 people, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza’s health ministry, and an Israeli siege has brought dire food shortages and the threat of famine.


Iran to send experts to ally Venezuela to help with medical accelerators

Medical accelerators are used in radiation treatments for cancer patients. (AFP file photo)
Medical accelerators are used in radiation treatments for cancer patients. (AFP file photo)
Updated 19 May 2024
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Iran to send experts to ally Venezuela to help with medical accelerators

Medical accelerators are used in radiation treatments for cancer patients. (AFP file photo)
  • “Venezuela has a number of accelerators in its hospitals that have been stopped due to the embargo,” the message said

CARACAS: Iran on Saturday said it will send experts to its ally Venezuela to help with medical accelerators in hospitals it said had been stopped due to Western sanctions.
Venezuela requested Iran’s help, according to a message on the social media platform X by the Iranian government attributed to the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
“Venezuela has a number of accelerators in its hospitals that have been stopped due to the embargo,” the message said.
Medical accelerators are used in radiation treatments for cancer patients.
Venezuela is also an ally of Russia and China.
The return of US sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry has made its alliance with Iran critical to keeping its lagging energy sector afloat. Washington last year temporarily relaxed sanctions on Venezuela’s promise to allow a competitive presidential election. The US now says only some conditions were met. 

 


Three Syrians missing after cargo ship sinks off Romania

Eight sailors were rescued by one of the nearby commercial vessels. (AFP file photo)
Eight sailors were rescued by one of the nearby commercial vessels. (AFP file photo)
Updated 19 May 2024
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Three Syrians missing after cargo ship sinks off Romania

Eight sailors were rescued by one of the nearby commercial vessels. (AFP file photo)
  • Eight sailors were rescued by one of the nearby commercial vessels, while the search for the other three, “all of Syrian nationality,” was continuing, the statement said

BUCHAREST: Romanian rescue teams on Saturday were scouring the Black Sea for three Syrian sailors who went missing when their cargo ship sank off the coast, the naval authority said.
The Mohammed Z sank with 11 crew on board, 26 nautical miles off the Romanian town of Sfantu Gheorghe in the Danube delta in the Black Sea on Saturday morning, officials said in a statement.
The ship sailing under the Tanzanian flag was carrying nine Syrian and two Egyptian nationals, it said.
After receiving an alert at “around 4:00am,” naval authorities and border police were dispatched, with two nearby commercial vessels also joining the search and rescue operation.
Eight sailors were rescued by one of the nearby commercial vessels, while the search for the other three, “all of Syrian nationality,” was continuing, the statement said.
The cause of the accident was unclear.
According to the specialist website Marine Traffic, the ship departed from the Turkish port of Mersin and was heading to the Romanian port of Sulina.
Since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine, drifting sea mines have posed a constant threat for ships in the Black Sea, with countries bordering it doubling down on demining efforts.
Ensuring safe passage through the Black Sea has gained particular importance since Romania’s Danube ports became hubs for the transit of grain following the Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports.