A group of masked men tried to set fire to two new Spanish customs patrol boats in the port of Algeciras yesterday, just hours after an off-duty Guardia Civil officer was attacked by smugglers in La Linea.
The two unrelated incidents have once again highlighted the scale of drug trafficking in the Campo de Gibraltar, prompting warnings about the threats faced by law enforcement officers serving in the area.
The two customs vessels were delivered just last week and the brazen attempt to set them alight has further fuelled concern about the impact of organised crime on communities in the Campo.
The men used a rigid-hulled inflatable boat to approach the patrol boats while they were berthed in the port, before trying to pour petrol over the vessels, according to Spanish press.
But they were spotted by a security guard, who raised the alarm and prevented them from setting the customs vessels alight.
The incident came just a day after the Asociación Española de Guardia Civiles, a group representing Guardia Civil officers, revealed that an off-duty officer was pelted with stones early Monday morning as he returned home after a shift.
The officer had spotted a group of smugglers unloading bales of drugs and had pulled over to alert his on-duty colleagues.
But he was posted and his vehicle was pelted with rocks, one of which smashed the car’s rear windscreen.
The AEGC said law enforcement officers in the Campo were known to criminal organisations and faced immense pressures, even while off duty.
The association said officers did not want to be posted to the Campo because of “an alarming lack of security”, likening the threats to those faced by officers posted to the Basque region during the years that ETA was active.
“Just like in the worst years of [ETA] terrorism, the narcos and their hitmen not only control the Campo, they have also identified members of the law enforcement agencies and they don’t conceal themselves when they single out our families,” the AEGC said in a statement.
“They monitor their movements, they knew when they’re entering or leaving their homes, and they do it all with impunity.”
“They are becoming increasingly dangerous and better armed in order to impose their law.”
The AEGC renewed its call for more law enforcement officers to be posted to the Campo and for better resources to combat increasingly sophisticated and aggressive criminal networks in the area.
It also said officers posted to the Campo should receive additional payments for working in “a conflict zone”.
“How long will Guardia Civil and police officers have to work with scant resources and personnel?” the AEGC said.
“Whatever they say, these are not isolated problems.”
“Drug trafficking is now a gangrene that each day infects more and more the lives of citizens who are trying to live in peace, and of law enforcement officers who feel impotent and abandoned by their superiors in the ministry who seem intent on playing the situation down.”