The Straits of Gibraltar saw another incident in the early hours of Tuesday morning when Customs Officials and members of the Royal Gibraltar Police force were fired upon by what were believed to be drugs traffickers, highlighting the escalating problem with drugs mafias in the area.
The incident occurred around 2:50am, when a Gibraltar police launch, in collaboration with Spanish customs officials, was taking part in a high-speed chase of a rigid zodiac-style boat allegedly carrying drugs.
"As the police launch approached the zodiac, the crew heard two shots, at which point they dropped back to a safe distance", explained the police press release. They confirmed that neither shot hit either the boat or the officers on board.
The incident took place approximately two nautical miles to the east of La Caleta (Catalan Bay) and is being considered a "turning point" in current maritime surveillance practices and as such is being "analysed" by the Gibraltar police
The Spanish Association of Civil Guards (AEGC) also released a statement saying that "for some time now" the traffickers "have been carrying weapons and even hiring hitmen" to repel police intervention. They bemoaned the fact that the danger from traffickers in the area is "increasing" and that the authorities are "not being given complete and up-to-date information" about the scale of the problem and therefore "the necessary measures" are not being taken to combat this escalation of violence.
The government representative to Andalucía, Antonio Sanz, announced on Tuesday that 40 specialised Guardia Civil agents, including members of the Rapid Response Unit (GAR), had been sent as reinforcements to Línea de la Concepción, where a local police officer died during an anti-trafficking car chase on June 8th. The AEGC hailed the move as "good news" but demanded long-term not temporary solutions.
Amongst other things they want to see the sale and use of this type of boat banned on the Spanish coast (as it has been in Gibraltar since the 1990s) "to stop this group of delinquents turning La Línea into their own version of Medellín" and also pointed out that standard bullet-proof vests were not suitable for agents on maritime duty.