VILNIUS - Nine Lithuanian citizens have been arrested as part of an international operation in Lithuania, suspected of ties to terrorism and arms smuggling, in addition to another 15 Lithuanians caught in Spain.
"Terrorism threats and arms have become a priority across the European Union following the recent events linked with terrorism," Edvardas Sileris, deputy police commissioner, told a Vilnius news conference on Monday.
The police confirmed turnover of around 50 unlawful firearms, with some of the weapons smuggled into Spain.
The arms smuggling scheme was led and arranged by Lithuanian citizens who have since been detained in Spain. One of the primary suspects is Darius Macianskas, a Kaunas resident who has a history of connections to organised crime. He had been wanted by Lithuanian police since 2012. A European arrest warrant was approved for his capture in 2015. Lithuanian authorities aim to have him extradited to Lithuania.
The international scheme was operated in three phases from April to August in Lithuania and Spain. The Lithuanian Criminal Police Bureau executed the probe in co-operation with Spain's police and Europol.
"A large number of weapons was seized during the operation," Andzejus Roginskis, deputy chief of the Criminal Police Bureau, disclosed to Vilnius media.
A total of 52 individuals from 12 countries were captured in Lithuania and Spain in the investigation, including citizens of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Columbia, and Panama.