A Gulfstream jet detained in Guinea Bissau, found in 2008 to be carrying 600 kilos of cocaine
Reuters is reporting that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is operating an illicit air traffic operation crossing the Atlantic Ocean from West Africa to the Andes, using a fleet of twin-engine turboprops, executive jets and retired Boeing 727s, transporting arms and carrying drugs supplied by FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) for ultimate European distribution.
What is alarming international authorities is the recent addition of several Boeing 727 aircraft, significantly enhancing these outlaw organizations’ transport capabilities.
Alexandre Schmidt, regional representative for West and Central Africa for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, cautioned in Dakar this week that the aviation network has expanded in the past 12 months and now likely includes several Boeing 727 aircraft.
“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,” said Schmidt.
The “other goods” officials are most worried about are weapons that militant organizations can smuggle on the jet aircraft. A Boeing 727 can handle up to 10 tons of cargo. ...
[Now] militant organizations—including groups like the FARC and al Qaeda—have the “power to move people and material and contraband anywhere around the world with a couple of fuel stops.”
French citizen and former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt held captive for six years by Marxist FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerillas, along with fourteen other hostages, were rescued last night by Colombian military personnel posing as aid workers.
Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said army troops infiltrated the FARC rebels, who were holding the hostages as part of their long-running guerrilla war and terror campaign against the state.
The infiltrators convinced local FARC militants that they’d been ordered to fly the hostages to another location, Santos said. The hostages were loaded aboard a helicopter and the militants, realizing they were outwitted and surrounded, gave up without a fight.
Military spies tricked the Marxist rebels into handing over their most valuable captives to disguised military helicopters without a shot being fired, said the government. Betancourt, called her rescue “absolutely impeccable” and said she and 14 other hostages had no idea they were being rescued until they were airborne. “They got us out grandly,” she told Colombian army radio. ..
(Betancourt) said the hostages who were being marched toward the helicopter thought they were part of an international hostage deal but when they saw the pilots dressed like guerrillas their hopes were dashed.
“They tied our hands and feet,” Betancourt said. “It wasn’t until the hostages were aboard the helicopter and that the pilots subdued the rebel commanders that they realised they had indeed found freedom. “We are with the army, you are free,” the pilots told the hostages, Betancourt recalled.
The elaborate sting would “go into history for its audacity and effectiveness”, said Juan Manuel Santos, the defence minister.
Hat tip to Dominique Poirier.