Global customs and police operation nets large seizures of bomb-making material

23 June 2011

Global customs and police operation nets large seizures of bomb-making material

Brussels, 23 June 2011

Press Release

World Customs Organization (WCO) Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and European Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud Algirdas Šemeta applaud the stunning results of a global operation to stop the trade in bomb-making material.

Conducted under the framework of Programme Global Shield, an unprecedented international effort to counter the smuggling of chemical precursors that could be used by terrorists and other criminals to manufacture explosive devices, the operation’s successes will act as a driver for future action against criminals trading in death and destruction.

Currently more than 70 countries are participating, which to date has resulted in numerous seizures. This is the first time that participating WCO Members have joined forces to keep bomb-making chemicals out of the hands of organizations involved in terror and other transnational organized crime.

Significant results from the operation include:

· 22 seizures of explosive precursors.

· Over 33,000 kilograms (33 metric tons) of chemicals seized, primarily ammonium nitrate.

· 18 arrests reported by participating countries.

The quantity of chemicals seized during Global Shield could have manufactured thousands of IEDs. Chemicals that can be used to manufacture them include ammonium nitrate, used in the 1995 bombing of a U.S. Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 and injured over 650, and hydrogen peroxide, used in the 2005 bombing of London's public transportation system that killed 52 and injured over 700.

According to the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), there were more than 11,600 terrorist attacks around the world in 2010, representing an exponential increase in attacks over ten years. More strikingly, in 2010, approximately 50,000 people were killed or injured by terrorist attacks; more than half of these deaths and injuries were caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

First proposed to the WCO by DHS as Project Global Shield, in March 2011 the WCO endorsed a proposal for the project to become a long-term programme, enabling customs and the police to continue multilateral efforts to combat the illicit trafficking and diversion of precursor chemicals. The Programme is fully supported by INTERPOL and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); strategic international partners in the fight to stop this form of crime.

“Effective use of risk management by customs and law enforcement officials has enabled countless lives to be saved and costly disruptions to world trade to be avoided,” said Secretary General Mikuriya. “The results of Global Shield are clear proof of the value of international collaboration which is a powerful tool in our efforts to protect the global supply chain, combat illicit trade and ensure the safety of society.”

“The very nature of travel, trade and commerce in our networked world means that a vulnerability or gap in one part of the chain can have implications thousands of miles away,” said Secretary Napolitano. “The successes of Programme Global Shield demonstrate the meaningful results that can be achieved when the United States and our international partners work together to protect the global supply chain.”

Commissioner Šemeta said, ‘The global supply chain is vulnerable to exploitation by those seeking to illicitly transport dangerous material around the world. International collaboration is needed to ensure that all nations have the resources, capabilities and authorities to combat the exploitation of the supply chain. With the statement signed this morning we intend to support WCO capacity building efforts and the development of implementation guidelines for Programme Global Shield.”

Participants provided information on the movement of just over 2 billion kilograms of 14 high-risk precursor chemicals: Acetic Anhydride, Acetone, Aluminum Powder, Ammonium Nitrate, Calcium Ammonium Nitrate, Hydrogen Peroxide, Nitric Acid, Nitromethane, Potassium Chlorate, Potassium Nitrate, Potassium Perchlorate, Sodium Chlorate, Sodium Nitrate and Urea.

Taking chemicals that are legal commodities and using them to create devastating explosive devices is a threat to all nations but with the cooperation of countries from around the world, this global effort has saved lives.