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Arrests in Guinea-Bissau over 1.8 tonnes cocaine bust

<p>Police in Guinea-Bissau have seized more than 1.8 tonnes of cocaine hidden in flour bags in the biggest seizure in the country’s history, authorities said on Tuesday.</p> <p>Police said the drugs had arrived by sea in the country’s northwest. After a two-week intelligence operation, police arrested eight people: four Bissau-Guineans, three Colombians and a Malian, the force said.</p> <p>It was the second large drug shipment to be caught this year in the former Portuguese colony on the Atlantic Coast, long a major crossing point for Latin American cocaine headed to Europe. An 800 kg haul was seized in March.</p> <p>Guinea-Bissau is home to just 1.8 million people and covers just 10,800 square miles, but its plethora of remote islands and unpoliced mangrove creeks makes it ideal territory for smugglers.</p> <p>Police said the latest shipment was on its way to Islamist militants: “The drugs belong to the terrorist network Al Qaeda. The cocaine comes from Colombia. But the destination is the Arab Maghreb,” said Domingos Monteiro, deputy director of the judicial police.</p> <p>Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in north and West Africa is based primarily in northern and central Mali but has a presence across the region. Authorities in the region have long suggested it is involved in drug trafficking in the lawless Sahara desert.</p> <p>For years, the United Nations described Guinea-Bissau as a “narco state” in which drug traffickers had become so powerful they controlled parts of the government. </p> <p>But after the arrest of some politicians implicated in the trade by the United States’ Drug Enforcement Administration in 2012, Bissau’s cocaine traffic seemed to decline or go underground. </p> <p><strong><em><span class="caps">REUTERS</span></em></strong></p>