ANKARA: Turkey has seized at least 13 tons of drugs in powdered form from a Bolivia-registered ship in its first-ever anti-narcotics operation in international waters near Libya’s Tobruk Port.
The operation, “the Albatros Campaign,” was launched after the Counter-Smuggling and Organized Crime Department of the Turkish police received a tip that a Bolivian ship was involved in drug trafficking on international waters.
The department contacted the Turkish Coast Guard Command, which determined the ship’s location on Jan. 3 and began pursuing it with a plane and a ship.
The vessel was seized in international waters – 55 nautical miles off Tobruk and 322 miles off of Turkey – late on Jan. 5, with security forces recovering 13 tons of marijuana from it.
Umut and Yaşam, the two Coast Guard vessels used in the operation, did not deploy any guns, but only pressurized water.
The anti-narcotics department detained the suspects, who resisted for five hours, after which the vessel was sent on its way to Turkey ahead of a probe by prosecutors.
Pulled by a tugboat, the vessel will be taken to the southern port of Mersin or Marmaris in the southwest, said the police.
The operation was successful despite bad weather conditions in the Mediterranean Sea, the officials said.
The police said the vessel’s power was shut down and communication channels deactivated ahead of the operation to prevent outside contact.
Turkey was authorized to conduct the operation following approval from the Turkish Interior Ministry and authorization from the Bolivian government in line with both countries’ responsibilities stemming from the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
The anti-drug operation was Turkey’s first security operation in international waters for years, the Interior Ministry said, adding that the amount of drugs seized was the largest ever in a single operation.
The Turkis Navy had conducted a broad drug operation on the Kısmetim-1 and Lucky S vessels 22 years ago.