Law enforcement agencies in 19 countries have carried out a three-day crackdown on arms trafficking.
Conducted with support from Europol and EU border control agency Frontex, police forces involved in the action carried out physical checks on vehicles crossing borders throughout Europe and the US, with a particular focus on the Western Balkans region.
The operation resulted in the seizure of 48 firearms and 833 rounds of ammunition, along with four hand grenades and roughly 500 grams of plastic explosives. As well as the weapons, drugs including cannabis and MDMA were impounded, in addition to cigarettes, rolling tobacco and a stolen vehicle.
In all, around 246,000 entities were checked between participating countries at the end of last month, including 219,000 individuals and 14,800 vehicles.
Police in Western Balkan states arrested 58 people during the crackdown, while 127 people were perverted from passing through various border checkpoints.
“During the actions, a significant amount of information was exchanged thanks to the excellent cooperation between the participating countries, Frontex and Europol,” Europol said in a statement.
“Europol experts provided real-time information exchange and cross-match analysis of the data collected. Officers at different border crossing points in the Western Balkans were facilitated on the spot by Frontex.”
The crackdown was part of the Joint Action Days in the Western Balkans programme, planned under the EMPACT framework for firearms.
The 19 countries that took part in the operation were Albania, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, Netherlands, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US.
News of the operation comes after counter-terror police in the UK revealed the seizure of more than 800 firearms after a month-long operation aimed at preventing criminals and terrorists getting their hands on lethal weapons.
Detective Superintendent Nick Wilcox of National Counter Terrorism Policing commented: “Counter terrorism officers continue to plan and prepare in light of world events such as the attacks in Paris – but we want to remain on the front-foot and stop terrorists obtaining guns in the first place.
“Low firearms availability is a major advantage in the UK. In many other western countries someone like Muhiddin Mire, the man who attacked innocent passers-by in Leytonstone tube station last year with a knife, could probably have got hold of a firearm and one serious injury could have become tens of deaths.”
The Western Balkans is thought to be a major source of weapons for Islamist extremists in Europe, thanks to the proliferation of firearms in the region left over from conflicts there during the 1990s. Weapons used by the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo and Paris attacks in 2015 have been traced back to Balkans arms dealers.