Algiers – Algerian authorities have arrested nine people, including eight Air Algerie stewards, as part of an operation against an international drug trafficking ring, newspapers reported Tuesday.
The El-Watan daily said the police investigation was launched when a steward from the national carrier was arrested at Algiers airport last month as he returned from Mali with several hundred grammes of heroin.
The newspaper said the heroin was “intended mainly for the children of high-profile figures” in the Algiers region and in the western region around Oran, adding that the identity of most of them had been kept secret.
The suspects, which include a famous singer and an Air Algerie trade union leader, have come under pressure to retract statements in which they named certain clients.
Mali is a major transit point for drugs smuggled from Latin America and destined for the European market.
Gangs of drug traffickers, some with ties to the local al-Qaeda branch, ply their trade in the vast desert through Algeria, Mauritania, Mali and Niger.