Illegal Gold Mining Funding Armed Groups in Sahel: Interpol

Women and children walk in a makeshift site for displaced people in Kongoussi, Burkina Faso, this past June. Along with Mali and Niger, Burkina Faso is part of Africa’s Sahel region, where conflict and insecurity are rampant amid weak governance and a lack of development. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick, File)

LYON, France (AFP) — Several “suspected terrorists” were arrested and more than 40,000 sticks of dynamite and detonator cords for illegal gold mining — a new source of funding for armed groups in the Sahel — were seized in a joint operation with the U.N., Interpol said on Monday.

Jointly coordinated by Interpol and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the seven-day Operation KAFO II targeted smuggling hotspots at airports, seaports and land borders in Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali and Niger.

Officers also seized dozens of firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

The operation was aimed at disrupting the trafficking networks used to supply “terrorists” across West Africa and the Sahel, Interpol said.

“Trafficking in firearms is a lucrative business which, in turn, fuels and funds other types of serious crimes,” said Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock. 

“Operation KAFO II shows the need to connect the dots between crime cases involving firearms and terrorists across different countries.”

Interpol said another new trend highlighted by the operation was the large quantities of contraband gasoline seized in Niger and Mali.

“It is believed the fuel came from Nigeria, and was trafficked to both finance and supply Al-Qaida and its affiliates.”

It added that illegal gold mining, in addition to being a source of funding for armed groups, was also being used as a recruitment ground.

Against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, officers also seized large quantities of contraband hand sanitiser gel, gloves and drugs.

© Agence France-Presse

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