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Rogue aviation network smuggles drugs, links to al-Qaida

According to a disturbing report by Reuters, a growing fleet of clandestine aircraft are crisscrossing the Atlantic Ocean bringing tons of drugs from cocaine-producing areas to West Africa and Sahel, where the drugs are funneled across the Sahara Desert and into Europe.

The aviation network has expanded in the past year and now likely includes several Boeing 727 aircraft, according to Alexandre Schmidt, regional representative for West and Central Africa for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Reuters said.

“When you have this high capacity for transporting drugs into West Africa, this means that you have the capacity to transport as well other goods, so it is definitely a threat to security anywhere in the world,” Schmidt told Reuters.

The other goods include weapons that militant organizations smuggle onto the aircraft, the report said.

Last month, the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime told a special session of the UN Security Council that drugs were being traded by “terrorists and anti-government forces” to fund their operations from the Andes, to Asia and the African Sahel, Reuters said.

In December, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials arrested three West African men in a sting operation in Ghana. The men were extradited to New York on drug trafficking and terrorism charges.  They  are accused of plotting to transport cocaine across Africa with the intent to support al-Qaida, its local affiliate AQIM and the FARC, according to the report.