Bosnian police in major organized crime crackdown
BANJA LUKA, Bosnia (Reuters) - Hundreds of Bosnian police officers raided more than 100 locations and seized large quantities of drugs and weapons, in one of the country's largest actions against organized crime, officials said Friday.
Many Balkan countries, which aspire to join the European Union, have stepped up efforts to fight gangs in the region, which is widely seen as a major crossroads for smuggling of drugs, weapons and humans.
In addition to economic and political reforms, the EU says potential candidate states in the Balkans need to make progress in fighting organized crime and corruption to succeed with the goal of full membership.
Police officers from Bosnia's Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat federation, as well as from the Brcko district, raided the locations Thursday and Friday and detained 60 people, among them two serving police officers.
"We filed criminal charges against all of them and kept in custody 33 suspects," said Gojko Vasic, head of the Serb Republic's criminal police directorate. "We targeted 73 people but 13 escaped."
The police seized 6.5 kilograms of heroin, 180 kg of marijuana and certain quantities of cocaine and tablets, as well as large quantities of weapons and ammunition, officials said.
Experts put organized crime among the top sources of insecurity in the region, which is still recovering from the devastating wars of the 1990s.
Officials in Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro estimate billions of euros have been laundered in the region over the past decade.
(Reporting by Olja Stanic, writing by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Adam Tanner and Michael Taylor)
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