Officers have been attacked with military-grade firearms during raids, local media reports FILE PHOTO. © Global Look Press / Alejandro Martinez Velez

Criminal gangs in southern Spain have obtained modern military-grade weapons which were said to have been smuggled from Ukraine, El Independiente news outlet reported this week. The problem has reached such proportions that law enforcement has demanded the government take “urgent measures” to deal with it, the outlet has said.

The number of Western-made combat weapons ending up in the hands of the criminals has increased in recent weeks, El Independiente said. According to sources, they arrived in Spain through a Ukraine-linked black market for weapons from Western shipments to Kiev.

Last September, the Spanish Civil Guard reported that it had seized two US-made assault rifles – an Arad Lite AR-10 and APC223 – both with “NATO caliber ammunition.” They were seized during a raid on a drug-smuggling gang in Barcelona, the report said.

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In May, a raid in the city of Cadiz descended into a fierce firefight between the Civil Guard and drug traffickers, El Independiente said. During the operation, the criminals reportedly “unloaded numerous shots from automatic military-grade weapons” at the officers, prompting them to return fire. Nine people were arrested following the incident, the news outlet said.

According to the outlet, the Unified Association of Civil Guards has called on the Spanish government to take “urgent measures” to control this “very serious situation.”

The continuing flow of military-grade arms to the black market and into the hands of criminals poses “a very great risk for citizens in general,” the organization’s spokesman, Pedro Carmona, said.

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In its 2023 Annual National Security Report published in March, the Spanish government pointed to armed conflicts as posing a significant risk when it comes to “the greater availability of weapons” and their “possible diversion into the illegal firearms trade.” It did not mention the Ukraine conflict directly, however.

Moscow has warned that Western weapons sent to Kiev could find their way onto the black market and into the hands of terrorists or organized crime groups. In October 2022, the Finnish authorities reported that weapons sent to Ukraine by its Western backers had already found their way into the country and ended up in the hands of local criminals. Arms supplied to Kiev were also reportedly found in Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands at the time.

In April 2022, Europol said its investigations indicated that weapons were being trafficked out of Ukraine and into the EU to supply organized criminal groups. It pointed to the fact that the Ukrainian authorities had distributed firearms, including to civilians, “without any records” at the beginning of the conflict with Russia. (RT)