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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Lucinda Ahukharie Threatens to Quit in West African Narco State

By Alberto Dabo
BISSAU, April 14 (Reuters) - The chief of Guinea-Bissau's anti-drugs police has threatened to quit after rival policemen shot a counternarcotics officer in a revenge killing that undermines the country's fight against cocaine cartels.

Judicial Police Director Lucinda Ahukharie offered her resignation after members of an elite rapid response police unit broke into her headquarters on Sunday and tortured and shot dead one of her officers, accused of killing one of their members.

The body of the slain anti-drugs officer was then dumped in the street outside the ramshackle judicial police offices in the capital of the tiny, cash-strapped West African state, which Colombian cartels have targeted for their drugs operations.

Using boats and planes, the cartels have been smuggling tonnes of cocaine from Latin America to Europe, setting up clandestine airstrips, embarcation points and storage depots on Guinea-Bissau's jagged coastline and in its jungle interior.

Police sources said Ahukharie had demanded a full investigation into Sunday's incident, saying her small, under-equipped anti-drugs force of nearly 80 officers could not carry out their job if their own security was under threat.

"What we're seeing is state authority relegated to the level of the streets. How can we work in these conditions?" a judicial police officer, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.

Justice Minister Carmelita Pires promised a full inquiry and said the police killers of counternarcotics officer Liberato Neves had been identified and would be "severely punished".
The day before his own killing, Neves had shot dead a member of the Interior Ministry's

Angolan-trained rapid response police in a confused brawl involving several police officers. He was being held in his own HQ when he was dragged out and killed.
Several prisoners also escaped.

Pires refused to accept Ahukharie's resignation, saying she believed the judicial police chief would reconsider.

NEED FOR SECURITY REFORM

Out-gunned by the cocaine cartels, Guinea-Bissau's beleaguered and under-funded anti-drugs police say they lack computers, radios, vehicles and even petrol to act against the drug traffickers. They often have to ask to borrow cars.

To try to stop Guinea-Bissau turning into a "narco-state", the United Nations and western governments have backed Ahukharie's judicial police in their unequal fight against the cartels, helping them to make some seizures and arrests.

The Rest @ Reuters Africa

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