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.


Israel has tactical control of Gaza-Egypt border corridor, military official says

Updated 5 sec ago
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Israel has tactical control of Gaza-Egypt border corridor, military official says

Israel has tactical control of Gaza-Egypt border corridor, military official says
The Israeli military’s operation in the Rafah area has in 10 days discovered 20 tunnels that cross into Egypt

JERUSALEM: An Israeli military official said on Wednesday Israeli forces had achieved tactical control over the Philadelphi Corridor that runs along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.
“It doesn’t mean that we have boots on the ground across all of the corridor but it means we can control, and we have the ability to cut off the oxygen line that Hamas has used for replenishing and movement in and around that area,” the official said, referring to the Palestinian Islamist militant group.
The official said that the Israeli military’s operation in the Rafah area has in 10 days discovered 20 tunnels that cross into Egypt and that this information was passed on to Egypt.

Lebanese army under attack from Israeli machine guns

Lebanese army under attack from Israeli machine guns
Updated 59 min 7 sec ago
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Lebanese army under attack from Israeli machine guns

Lebanese army under attack from Israeli machine guns
  • UNIFIL commander: ‘Death and destruction are heartbreaking’
  • Hezbollah said they had attacked “the newly installed espionage equipment at the Al-Raheb site, hitting it directly and destroying it”

BEIRUT: A Lebanese army site on the outskirts of the border town of Alma Al-Shaab came under machine gun fire from the Israeli army on Wednesday. Nobody was injured in the incident.
Israeli artillery also targeted the outskirts of Mays Al-Jabal, Wazzani, Jebbayn, Chihine and Kfarkela.
A statement from Hezbollah said it in turn had attacked “the newly installed espionage equipment at the Al-Raheb site, hitting it directly and destroying it.”
Israeli army spokesman Avichay Adraee said air defenses had intercepted a “suspicious aerial object” in the Ras Naqoura area without activating any sirens.
“Warplanes attacked a military building containing Hezbollah members in the Naqoura area. The planes also attacked Hezbollah buildings in Ramyah and Al-Tiri in southern Lebanon,” he said. A raid on the town of Naqoura caused minor injuries to several citizens.
The head of the United Nations Interim Force in southern Lebanon, Gen. Aroldo Lazaro, urged all parties to cease their fire, recommit to Resolution 1701, and begin the work toward a political and diplomatic solution, which he said was the only way to resolve the situation.
The security situation in the area meant UNIFIL did not hold any celebrations to mark the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers on Wednesday.
In a statement, Gen. Lazaro said: “The death and destruction we have seen on both sides of the Blue Line is heartbreaking. Too many lives have been lost and disrupted. Thousands of people remain displaced and have lost their homes and their livelihoods. As peacekeepers, we recommit each day to our work to restore stability.”
Peacekeepers from 49 nations are currently in the south and report regularly to the Security Council.
Yesterday, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French president’s special envoy to Lebanon, met with the head of Hezbollah’s Loyalty to Resistance parliamentary bloc, MP Mohammad Raad, at its office in Beirut.
He arrived on Tuesday evening on his sixth mission to discuss developments in the country with Lebanese officials.
Le Drian met with several officials, including caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri, along with other heads of opposition Christian parties and the National Moderation bloc made up of mostly Sunni deputies.
According to the leaked information, the French official insisted on the need for consultation among Lebanese powers to name a president.
Le Drian warned: “Lebanon’s political feature will be gone if the crisis remains and if the presidential vacuum persists. Lebanon will save nothing but its geographical feature.”
Berri assured Le Drian that he would “be adhering to calling for unconditional consultations focused on the presidential election and moving to the parliament to conduct successive voting rounds with a list of candidates until a new president of the republic is elected.”


World Central Kitchen stops work in Rafah after ‘attacks’

World Central Kitchen stops work in Rafah after ‘attacks’
Updated 36 min 28 sec ago
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World Central Kitchen stops work in Rafah after ‘attacks’

World Central Kitchen stops work in Rafah after ‘attacks’
  • “In the face of Israeli operations in Rafah, countless families are being forced to flee once again,” the charity said on X
  • The charity had recently resumed its work in Gaza after suspending operations in April

RAFAH, Palestinian Territories: The World Central Kitchen nonprofit, which provides meals in war-torn Gaza, said it had stopped its operations in the Palestinian territory’s southern city of Rafah due to “ongoing attacks” in the area.
The US-based charity was founded by celebrity Spanish-American chef Jose Andres to provide food to communities facing humanitarian crises and disasters.
“In the face of Israeli operations in Rafah, countless families are being forced to flee once again,” the charity said on social media platform X late on Tuesday.
“Ongoing attacks have forced us to pause work at our main kitchen in Rafah and relocate many of our community kitchens further north.”
The charity had recently resumed its work in Gaza after suspending operations in April following the killing of seven of its workers in three air strikes by an Israeli drone.
The deaths — of an Australian, three Britons, a North American, a Palestinian and a Pole — had triggered a global outrage over Israel’s military operations.
An internal Israeli military inquiry found that the drone team had made an “operational misjudgment” after spotting a suspected Hamas gunman shooting from the top of an aid truck.
In recent weeks, fighting in Rafah has intensified after the Israeli military began its ground assault there on May 7 after seizing control of the crossing between Gaza and Egypt.
Gaza officials said an Israeli strike on Sunday set ablaze a crowded camp for displaced people in Rafah, killing 45 and wounding dozens.
Israel’s military said it has launched an investigation into the strike but insisted its munitions alone “could not” have caused the deadly blaze.
Since the start of the Rafah assault, delivering aid into Gaza has become more difficult, aid agencies say.
Even when medical and other aid makes it into Gaza, it remains “very challenging” to transport and deliver the goods both in the south and to the north, Rik Peeperkorn, the World Health Organization’s representative in the Palestinian territories, told AFP on Tuesday.


Houthis claim second ship attack in Mediterranean

Houthis claim second ship attack in Mediterranean
Updated 29 May 2024
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Houthis claim second ship attack in Mediterranean

Houthis claim second ship attack in Mediterranean
  • The missile and drone forces hit a Greece-flagged oil and chemical ship, Minerva Antonia, in the Mediterranean,
  • Those ships were targeted because they breached a ban on sailing to Israel

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s Houthi militia on Wednesday said that they had attacked another commercial ship in the Mediterranean as part of the fourth phase of their missile and drone campaign against ships in support of the Palestinian people.
Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said that the missile and drone forces hit a Greece-flagged oil and chemical ship, Minerva Antonia, in the Mediterranean, the second such claim in less than a week.
He also said the militia had attacked the Marshall Island-flagged bulk ship Laax and the Malta-flagged bulk carriers Morea and Sealady in the Red Sea.
Those ships were targeted because they breached a ban on sailing to Israel.
The Houthi official said that they launched cruise missiles against two American ships, Alba and Maersk Hartford, in the Arabian Sea.
Last week, the Houthis claimed their first strike on a ship in the Mediterranean, as they extended their missile and drone operations into new waters.
Since November, the Houthis have seized one commercial ship, sunk another, and fired hundreds of ballistic missiles, drones and remotely controlled and explosives-laden boats at commercial and naval ships in international waters off Yemen, as well as in the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean.
The Houthis say they want to put pressure on Israel to end its war on Gaza while also targeting US and UK ships for backing Israel and bombing Yemen.
The Houthis’ announcement of new attacks came hours after the US Central Command reported that the Houthis fired five ballistic missiles from areas under their control at international ships in the Red Sea on Tuesday, three of which struck the bulk carrier Laax.
According to the US military, the ship’s crew is safe and sailing to its destination and that neither the US-led marine coalition nor any other international ship reported being hit by the other Houthi missiles.
Five drones fired by the Houthis over the Red Sea on Tuesday morning failed to reach their target after being destroyed by CENTCOM forces.
Two UK maritime agencies reported on Tuesday that a commercial ship in the Red Sea was damaged after being struck by three missiles off Hodeida in Yemen.
At the same time, Houthi media said on Tuesday that US and UK aircraft carried out two raids on the Al-Jabanah area in the western province of Hodeida, but provided no specifics about the targets.
The US and the UK have conducted airstrikes on Houthi-controlled Yemen, saying they are targeting drone and missile launchers as well as storage sites.


Arab League chief to attend China-Arab Cooperation Forum in Beijing

Arab League chief to attend China-Arab Cooperation Forum in Beijing
Updated 29 May 2024
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Arab League chief to attend China-Arab Cooperation Forum in Beijing

Arab League chief to attend China-Arab Cooperation Forum in Beijing
  • The event will be attended by China’s President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi
  • The meeting in Beijing aims to provide a platform for the exchange of views on regional and international issues, particularly the Palestinian cause

CAIRO: Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the secretary-general of the Arab League, will on Thursday attend the 10th session of the ministerial meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in Beijing.
The event will be attended by China’s President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, as well as monarchs and political leaders from several Arab countries.
Aboul Gheit’s spokesperson, Gamal Roshdy, said the visit would include a number of meetings with senior Chinese officials, including Wang and Vice President Han Zheng.
The meeting in Beijing — which comes after Aboul Gheit met EU foreign ministers to discuss the Palestinian cause earlier in the week — aims to provide a platform for the exchange of views on regional and international issues, particularly the Palestinian cause, which remains a priority for the Arab League, especially in light of efforts to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the founding of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, Roshdy said the Arab League had produced a commemorative book that highlighted some of the key milestones in its history.
The forum is a framework for dialogue and cooperation between Arab states and China. Its founding document was signed in September 2004 at the headquarters of the Arab League in Cairo, following a visit by then Chinese President Hu Yintao.