By Maria Jesus Corrales
Rubber bullets were fired to warn off a group of tobacco smugglers who were attacking officers on a beach in La Linea this week, Spanish law enforcement sources told the Chronicle.
The unusual step was taken after officers were accosted for the second time in less than a week by large groups of people who later became aggressive.
The latest incident happened at around 1.30am on Thursday morning after crew on a Guardia Civil vessel, supported by a Servicio de Vigilancia Aduanera vessel, intercepted a group of people trying to unload tobacco from a small boat on La Linea’s eastern shoreline.
During a chase at sea, SVA officers fired warning shots using rubber bullets and the smugglers beached their boat and tried to flee on foot.
But when officers from different law enforcement agencies tried to engage the smugglers on land, they came under attack and were pelted with stones.
To dissuade the group, Spanish Policia Nacional officers also fired warning shots using rubber bullets.
After the incident, Guardia Civil officers seized 14 boxes containing 6,950 packets of cigarettes and arrested two people, one of them a juvenile.
The incident was witnessed by people walking on the seafront promenade and others who live in the area.
This is the second time in a week that cigarette smugglers in La Linea try to intimidate Spanish law enforcement officers by attacking them with stones.
On Tuesday, a Policia Local patrol was pelted with stones by a group of around 50 people who were waiting on land to collect cigarettes from a boat.
On that occasion, the officers were outnumbered and had to leave the scene to avoid injury.