What was supposed to be a routine anti-drugs operation turned into a pitched battle on Sunday, highlighting the growing risk facing Spain’s security forces as they try to combat drug smugglers bringing in hashish by boat from Morocco.
Three Spanish Civil Guard officers and four members of the National Police found themselves under attack from around a hundred people who hurled stones at them, allowing criminals to unload their shipment onto a beach between the communities of El Tonelero and El Burgo, some five kilometers north of Gibraltar. All seven officers were injured in the incident and a patrol vehicle had its windows smashed.
The attack is just the latest in a similar series of incidents in recent days in the area around Gibraltar, known as Campo de Gibraltar.
“What happened is nothing new. In recent days there have been attacks on a number of officers in the area,” says José Encinas, a regional representative of the AUGC Civil Guard labor union, adding that there have been four incidents between police and drug traffickers “on land and at sea” recently.
A Civil Guard patrol boat was harried by four boats occupied by drugs traffickers Civil Guard representative José Encinas
Later on Sunday evening, two local police officers in the nearby town of San Roque were injured after a car deliberately crashed into them while they were chasing another vehicle they suspected was carrying drugs.
Encinas says that over the last week, other officers have been attacked in the area bordering Gibraltar, a well-known delivery point for drug shipments brought by motor launches from Morocco. “A Civil Guard patrol vessel was harried by four high-speed semi-rigid boats occupied by around a dozen drug traffickers,” he adds.
He explains that there has been an upsurge in such incidents, and blames “a lack of resources and personnel." The AUGC says that low-level officers at the Civil Guard’s nearby Algeciras Command Station needs to be increased from the current 1,100 by 30%, with a 40% increase in senior investigating officers.
The SUP police union has also expressed its concern at what it sees as the lack of resources that is putting officers at risk when tackling drug traffickers.
Encinas is calling for “immediate measures so as to avoid worse damage,” which would involve declaring the affected part of the coast “a special conflict” zone, meaning that it would be given greater resources. “But it has been known for some time that more resources are needed, and the authorities have done nothing,” says the AUGC.
English version by Nick Lyne.