Morocco: Drug trafficking rising

2010-11-03 22:19

Madrid - Morocco is alarmed by the rise in the amount of cocaine being smuggled from South America to Europe though its territory, Moroccan Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri said on Wednesday in Spain.

"Today it is not soft drugs that are being trafficked between Africa and Europe. Today we are extremely worried by this flow of hard drugs like cocaine, which essentially come from South America," he told a news conference.

International drug trafficking gangs ship the cocaine from South America by air or sea, first to west Africa, from where it is then transported to Morocco, the minister said. It is then flown from Morocco to Spain.

"There are planes which regularly come to take cocaine from Morocco and to southern Europe, especially Spain," Fihri told a joint news conference in Madrid with his Spanish counterpart, Trinidad Jimenez.

The minister urged Spain and Morocco to boost their co-operation to combat this drug smuggling, just as the two nations have stepped up their joint effort against illegal immigration.

"I draw your attention to the danger posed by cocaine not just for the market and consumers, but because of the destabilising factor it can have in various nations," he said.

Last month Moroccan authorities announced they had dismantled a drug ring which they said had ties to al-Qaeda's North African affiliate (AQIM) as well as Latin American drug cartels, and which brought cocaine and marijuana from Colombia and Venezuela to Mali, and then on to Morocco and Europe.

Moroccan Interior Minister Taieb Cherqaoui said 34 people were arrested as part of the operation, including a Spaniard who led the group from Morocco.

Last week Spanish and French police announced they had smashed a group that smuggled cocaine and hashish from Morocco to southern Spain by helicopter with the arrest of six French citizens.

Morocco has long been a major source of the cannabis which is consumed in the European Union. Most of the cannabis plants, from which hashish is produced, are grown in the country's rugged and isolated Rif mountains by farmers trying to stave off grinding poverty.