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Friday, August 31, 2007

Guinea-Bissau Propmises to Shoot Down Drugs Planes

BISSAU, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Guinea-Bissau's military will shoot down any aircraft that enters its airspace without permission as part of efforts to fight drug-trafficking by criminal gangs in the West African state, its top officer said.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Batista Tagme Na Wai promised a "crusade" against narcotics smuggling in the tiny, poor nation on the Atlantic coast, which experts say is used by drugs cartels as a staging post to smuggle cocaine to Europe.

Guinea-Bissau authorities say shipments of Colombian cocaine seized by local police have been flown in by small planes from Latin America to bush airstrips. The drugs are then flown or shipped out of the country to Europe by the traffickers.

"We will shoot down every plane that tries to violate our air space without previous permission from the authorities," Na Wai told reporters late on Thursday. He added stores of aircraft fuel used by drugs smugglers had been found and seized.

The general said anti-aircraft batteries had been installed in the offshore Bijagos islands, whose jungles, beaches and mangrove creeks have been used by traffickers to set up clandestine airstrips and embarkation points, drugs experts say.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies, which reports on the strength of armies around the world, lists the Guinea-Bissau military as possessing Russian-made anti-aircraft guns and SAM SA-7 ground-to-air missiles but it was not clear how many of these weapons were operational.

Guinea-Bissau's government, police and military have faced international criticism for not doing enough to combat the cocaine trafficking, but they say they do not have enough equipment and technology and have demanded more foreign aid.

In July, the country formally adopted the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime as part of its efforts to crack down against the traffickers.

The Rest @ Reuters Africa

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