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Turkey Seizes 13 Tons of Drugs from Bolivian Vessel Off Libyan Coast

Turkey has seized 13 tons of illicit drugs on board a Bolivia-registered cargo ship navigating in international waters off the coast of Libya, according to Turkish media outlets.

The move has been described as Turkey’s first-ever anti-narcotics operation in international waters near Libya’s Tobruk Port.

Turkish security forces reportedly launched the anti-drug operation, dubbed “the Albatros Campaign,” in international waters—55 nautical miles off Libya’s Tobruk Port and 322 miles off of Turkey—capturing 13.6 tons of marijuana in powder form late on Tuesday.

According to online magazine Cannabis Culture, powdered marijuana is “commonly called kif (pronounced ‘keef’) in North America… essentially, it is hashish before it has been pressed.”

Hurriyet Daily News quoted Turkey’s Interior Ministry as saying that the amount of captured illicit drugs was the largest ever in a single operation.

The operation “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,” reports Hurriyet, adding, “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.”

“Umut and Yaşam, the two Coast Guard vessels used in the operation, did not deploy any guns, but only pressurized water,” notes the report.

Nine Syrian national crew members were detained, Turkish Coast Guard Cmdr. Rear Adm. Hakan Ustem told Anadolu Agency Thursday.

Turkey police have reportedly said the drugs were expected to be distributed to European countries.

Citing the Turkish army, Daily Sabah reports that the cargo ship, called Joudi, was docked in a Turkish port Thursday.

“The Turkish General Staff said on its website on Friday that the ship was docked in Aksaz Naval Base Command in southwestern Marmaris district,” notes the report.

Anadolu Agency reportedly learned from the Mugla police directorate Friday that “no new criminal evidence was found following checks on the vessel after it was pulled into the port by a tugboat.”

“Sources said that four prosecutors took the testimony of detained Syrian crew members,” reports Daily Sabah, adding that the operation “was carried out with the support of narcotics and special operations teams from Turkish police.”

Turkish coast guards were reportedly authorized to carry out the anti-drug operation following approval from the Turkish Interior Ministry and authorization from the government of Bolivia in line with both countries’ responsibilities dictated by the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

Hurriyet quoted unnamed Turkish officials as saying that “the operation was successful despite bad weather conditions in the Mediterranean Sea.

“The police said the vessel’s power was shut down and communication channels deactivated ahead of the operation to prevent outside contact,” adds Hurriyet.

According to Turkey’s Interior Ministry, the operation as the country’s first security operation in international waters for years.

“The Turkish Navy had conducted a broad drug operation on the Kısmetim-1 and Lucky S vessels 22 years ago,” notes Hurriyet. 

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