Turkish narcotics police seized 185 kilograms (408 pounds) of cocaine Monday in an anti-narcotics operation in Istanbul, an official said.
Acting on a tipoff, Istanbul Security Directorate's narcotics units seized a huge load of cocaine hidden inside a shipping container carrying bananas from Ecuador.
The market value of that quantity of the illegal drug is believed to be around 50 million Turkish liras ($9.3 million).
Turkish police are experienced at dealing with international drug trafficking, as the country lies on a transit route for drug smuggling between Asia and Europe. In 2015, Turkish security forces helped Italy seize 13 tons of drugs from a vessel sailing along its coast.
Turkey is also fighting a rising case of drug use, especially among youth, and has stepped up anti-narcotics efforts in recent years. The Interior Ministry recently announced that security forces carried out more than 134,000 anti-narcotics operations in 2018 and captured nearly 80 tons of cannabis, 19.6 million Captagon pills, 7.8 million Ecstasy pills and more than 15.9 tons of heroin.
Terrorist groups, particularly the PKK, have exacerbated the booming drug trade. The PKK is accused of smuggling drugs to and from Europe as well as cultivating cannabis in southeastern Turkey as a way to fund its illegal activities.
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