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Spanish police smash Nigerian drug ring, arrest 15 people

Spanish police said Sunday they had smashed a Nigerian ring that smuggled cocaine and other drugs into Spain and the rest of Europe from Latin America and Africa, arresting 15 people.

The group, based in the Madrid suburb of Alcala de Henares, would use drug mules who would injest pellets filled with drugs and avoid detection at airports, police said in a statement.

Police seized about eight kilos (18 pounds) of cocaine and 17,000 euros ($22,255) in cash as part of their investigation, which began in September 2011.

The majority of those arrested were Nigerian citizens.

Police carried out their first arrest as part of the operation in October 2011 at the airport at Palma de Majorca of a man who had swallowed 77 pellets of cocaine.

Later that month police detained another man at the same airport who had swallowed 68 pellets of cocaine.

“These people had been sent by the organisation to Madrid to collect cocaine from other members of the ring which based in Alcala de Henares. From there they would also send mules to South America and Africa to collect the drug,” a police statement said.

Spain’s proximity to north Africa, a key source of hashish, and its close ties with its former colonies in Latin America, a major cocaine producing region, have made it a major gateway into Europe for drug traffickers.