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Belgium targets cocaine traffickers in major operation involving 1,000 police officer

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More than 1,000 Belgian police officers carried out dozens of raids and arrests on Tuesday in a sweeping operation targeting cocaine smugglers, federal prosecutors said.

“From 5:00 am, more than a hundred searches took place mainly in the Brussels region,” spokesman Eric Van Duyse said.

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The operation -- the biggest in Belgium since March -- came after authorities cracked an encrypted communications network used by criminal gangs.

The national Belga news agency reported that Tuesday’s raids targeted an Albanian crime network.

Belgium and neighboring Netherlands have overtaken Spain to become the main smuggling hubs for cocaine flowing into Europe, law enforcement agency Europol said last month.

Seizures at Belgium’s port of Antwerp reached a record 65.6 tonnes in 2020, with Colombia, Brasil and Ecuador being the leading countries of origin.

The operation in March that led to 48 arrests in Brussels was part of a cross-border operation after police shut down the Sky ECC encrypted phone network.

The authorities had been able to monitor messages being exchanged by criminals after cracking the special phone network.

Read more: Over $31 mln seized, 150 people arrested in US-Europe darknet drug probe