The persons were flagged by INTERPOL’s global criminal databases for wanted people, stolen travel and identity documents, and stolen vehicles.
The operation dabbed “Flash-Pact” took place simultaneously in two phases between July and September across the border points of 14 countries in east and southern Africa, including Kenya, Somali, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Nigeria.
The operation was aimed at identifying suspected terrorists and dismantling their networks at a time when multiple countries have waged wars against terror groups that are wreaking havoc in their territories.
Local border patrol officers, customs officials and counter terrorism experts worked with Interpol and AFRIPOL officials to locate, intercept and stop criminals trying to cross regional borders.
In a statement, INTERPOL said 391 passports and travel documents were reported stolen, signalling the possibility of them being in the hands of terrorists for use in their movement.
“Stolen travel documents are a key asset for terrorist mobility, particularly foreign terrorist fighters returning from conflict zones,” the statement said.
Six travellers found using forged passports by officers in Uganda and Benin were detained.
The operation was timely owing to the increasing cases of terror incidents in east and west Africa and in the Sahel region.
“Counter-terrorism operations like Flash-Pact are clear evidence of the joint commitment AFRIPOL-INTERPOL partnership as it allows us to share expertise on local terrorist networks, better understand their methods, motives and financing and ultimately identify and arrest those who chose to spread terror,” INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services Stephen Kavanagh said.
Participating countries focused their operations at airports, seaports, land border crossings and a range of pre-identified terrorist hotspots.
Nine of those arrested were subject of the organisation’s red notice, one man was the subject of an INTERPOL-United Nations Security Council (UNSS) Special Notice and four were subjects of a blue notice.
An INTERPOL Red Notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action while a Blue Notice serves to collect additional information about a person’s identity, location or activities in relation to a crime.
On the other hand, an Interpol-UNSS Special Notice alerts the global law enforcement community to individuals that are subject to sanctions imposed by the UNSS, which include asset freezing, travel ban and arms embargo.
The Operation Flash-Pact further led to the seizure of an AK-47 assault weapon, two magazines and 51 rounds of ammunition in Mozambique; 360 rolls of explosives and a detonating cord in an unnamed country; several stolen luxury vehicles were recovered in Tanzania and more than 250 travellers were arrested for attempted illegal immigration in the country.
“It is important to underline the role of joint operations such as Flash-Pact in enhancing cooperation and security for African countries. INTERPOL’s support has enabled the sharing of intelligence information which leads to a greater security through arrests and seizures,” added AFRIPOL’s Acting Executive Director, Ambassador Jalel Chelba.
The operation was coordinated with the help of INTERPOL’s Support Programme for the African Union (ISPA).
Participating countries included Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.