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Regional Interpol states suspend operations over Covid-19 pandemic

By Cyrus Ombati | April 9th 2020 at 13:31:29 GMT +0300

The regional Interpol has suspended its three phases operations on various crimes due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Interpol was conducting operations on counter-terrorism, money laundering, carjacking, drug and human trafficking, smuggling of weapons, poaching and piracy in East Africa.

But the program faced a setback after representatives drawn from the participating countries, Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania were recalled by their government to join in combating the global virus.

The postponement of the program, in its second edition dubbed Operation Simba poses a threat in terms of sharing intelligence and the use of Interpol policing capacities to ensure extremist activities’ are halted as it has triggered investigations in several countries.

Interpol head and regional CT node for Eastern and Southern Africa Daniel Damjanovic said the coordination helps in targeting the movement of terrorist fighters.

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“We have halted the program because of the Covid-19 global outbreak. Some of the officers have been recalled to go and beef up controls in implementing their relevant governments measures put in place to contain the pandemic,” he explained.

Head of Interpol regional bureau for Eastern Africa and Executive secretary of East Africa police Chiefs Organization (EAPCCO) Gideon Kimilu and Deputy Director Criminal Investigations Joseph Ashimala, commended officers who have since participated in the initiative for their commitment and dedication despite the Covid-19 challenges.

“Simba operation is among a series of operations which are annually carried out by Interpol in the Eastern Africa region. The operation targets the movement of terrorist fighters in the region,” explained Kimilu.

He stressed the role of Interpol, which he stated as the biggest police organization in the world tasked with ensuring the safety of communities.

In the region, the program main objective is “to insulate the communities in the region against terrorism and terrorism-related activities.

He explained that Interpol has broad strategies to deal with terrorism in the region, however, the overarching strategy is the establishment of its counter-terrorism node for the region which is staffed by experts.

The second strategy he explained, is to train and empower law enforcement officers in the region through training on emerging counter-terrorism trends and appropriate responses while the third is to equip officers with the modern Interpol policing capacities.

The operation launched last year by Interpol and coordinated by the counter-terrorism experts from its headquarters in the United States of America (USA) is meant to enhance border security and deny terrorists the opportunity to move within the region.

Last month alone three million checks were carried out against Interpol databases over eight days resulting in the detection of men and women wanted for serious crimes.

In Kenya for instance, authorities flagged one man as an Interpol Red Notice target, a global alert sent to police worldwide about internationally wanted fugitives. The suspect is wanted by a Central Asian country for serious fraud crime.  

The program has boosted frontline officers' ability to recognize a traveler as a potential terrorist or criminal using Interpol's wide range of policing capabilities installed at air and land border crossings.

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