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Posted: Saturday 2 March, 2024 at 3:33 PM

Operation Hammerhead Intercepts More Than 23,000 Rounds of Ammo destined for the Caribbean

By: Staff Reporter,

    BASSETERRE, St. Kitts-- The Caribbean-United States partnership is making strides in curbing the illicit flow of firearms and ammunition from the United States to the Caribbean region. 


    Law enforcement agencies and governments in the Caribbean have long grappled with this issue, as the region does not produce these weapons, with many traced back to various individuals within the United States.


    Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley, recently attended the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting in Guyana, where he outlined the United States assistance in combating the problem, given the twin-island state's recent surge in crime and violence.


    St. Kitts and Nevis, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, and the Bahamas have all reported significant instances of gun violence in the past year. Law enforcement agencies are striving to contain this issue, which could have severe economic repercussions for territories heavily reliant on tourism.


    Following his trip to Georgetown, Rowley briefed reporters on discussions held during the meeting. He presented a report covering the period from July to December 2023, detailing the seizure of over 20,000 rounds of ammunition by the United States destined for the Caribbean region. Rowley highlighted that US authorities examined 600,000 packages bound for CARICOM in 2023. Out of these, 4,600 required enhanced inspection, leading to the seizure of 318 firearms, 348 magazines, and 19,270 rounds of ammunition intended for the Caribbean.


    In a statement released on March 1 after the US presence at the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting in Guyana, the US State Department acknowledged the success of Operation Hammerhead, including the seizures. The statement noted that, in collaboration with the CARICOM Crime Gun Intelligence Unit (CGIU), U.S. Homeland Security Investigations initiated Operation Hammerhead to target illicit firearms trafficking from the United States to the Caribbean. For the July-December period, the operation resulted in the seizure of 339 firearms, 26,495 rounds of ammunition, and over 400 magazines.


    These seizures underscore the extent of firearms flowing into the Caribbean from the US, a consequence of the US right to bear arms, as highlighted by Bahamas Prime Minister, Phillip Davis. Recognizing this issue, Caribbean leaders engaged with US Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on combating the illegal flow of guns from the United States. In response, the United States Department of State has provided financial assistance to the region to combat this illicit activity.


    “ speaks directly to mitigating the epidemic of the availability of small arms used in illegal activities to directly reduce the rate of homicide. That is where a lot of the focus is, trying to deprive the criminals of a supply of arms and ammunition. Within CARICOM, there's a general partnership of a number of CARICOM agencies, all of whom are focusing on this issue of violent crime and violence as a public health issue," the statement read.


    Despite progress, the region continues to grapple with high homicide rates. St. Kitts and Nevis reported 32 homicides, surpassing the totals for both 2022 and 2021 combined; Jamaica recorded 1,393 homicides, a decrease from the previous year; and Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, reported 576 instances of murder.


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