Page last updated at 22:20 GMT, Sunday, 20 July 2008 23:20 UK

Guinea-Bissau drugs plane seized

Map of Guinea Bissau

Guinea-Bissau police say they have arrested the head of air traffic control at the country's main airport after seizing a plane carrying cocaine.

Reports said there was a standoff at the airport when soldiers tried to stop police searching the aircraft, said to contain 500kg (1,102lb) of the drug.

The plane's three-man Venezuelan crew was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of smuggling cocaine.

The army of the West African state has denied involvement in drugs smuggling.

Correspondents say Guinea-Bissau is a major hub for drugs gangs moving cocaine from Latin America to Europe.


Last month the United Nations warned that smugglers were operating there with almost total impunity, aided by rampant corruption.

Guinea Bissau street scene
Most Guinea-Bissau residents live on less than $1 a day
It is estimated that the volume of cocaine moved through Guinea-Bissau in 2007 was worth more than its entire national income.

Other West African countries are also being affected as traffickers seek new routes to smuggle South American cocaine into Europe.

Police forces in the region lack the resources to combat powerful and well-organised drugs gangs, and there are often huge bribes on offer to officials.

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