Dakar: Cocaine shipped to West Africa by Latin American drug cartels is now being traded for arms, the UN`s drug czar has said -- an exchange of contraband that is especially dangerous in a region now home to cells of an al-Qaida-linked terror group.
Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, says "there is more than just spotty evidence" indicating a link between drug traffickers
and terror groups.
"And before this becomes a very serious problem, it has to be dealt with and nipped in the bud," Costa said in an interview with AP, on the sidelines of a seven-nation drug
summit in the Senegalese capital of Dakar. Cocaine from South America has been moving through the West African coast for several years, and experts believe drugs are then parcelled out to smugglers who move the cocaine north by boats and by road. One suspected smuggling route crosses portions of the Sahara desert controlled by insurgents.
The cocaine-for-arms trade is especially worrying given the recent expansion of an al-Qaida-linked terror group, which was once based exclusively in Algeria but now has tentacles in Mauritania, Mali and Niger.
"There is plenty of evidence of a double flow. (Of) drugs moving, arriving into West Africa from across the Atlantic ... and the trading -- exchange -- of cocaine for
arms," Costa said.