Argentine authorities have seized about 1,000 guns and hundreds of explosives from an international criminal gang, officials said Thursday, calling it the largest seizure of its kind in the country's history.
The security ministry said in a statement that the weapons were smuggled into Argentina from the U.S. and Europe. The magazines were purchased in Spain and the Netherlands and sent in containers aboard ships. They were then sent by land to neighbouring Brazil and Paraguay. Officials have not identified the gang involved.
"This is not only important for Argentina, but it's also important to reduce violence in Paraguay and Brazil because many of these weapons are used by drug dealers and the big Brazilian cartels that manage the drug-dealing business using machine guns and all sorts of heavy weapons," Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said.
About 50 raids on homes, offices and armouries were also carried out nationwide and 17 people have been detained in an operation aided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The seized firearms include AK-47s, Browning machine guns and more than 30,000 bullets of various calibres. Authorities also confiscated about $166,000, mines, night vision goggles and a 20mm anti-aircraft gun.
U.S. Homeland Security said in a statement that it will announce the results of an international weapons trafficking operation with partners in Argentina and Brazil on Friday in Miami.
It said a criminal organisation was trafficking large quantities of weapons parts and accessories from the U.S. to Argentina and Brazil.