SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — Three men suspected of being part of an international drug smuggling ring were arrested in North Macedonia, where police seized about 150 kilograms (330 pounds) of marijuana believed destined for Turkey, authorities said Thursday.
Police said the drugs, with an estimated street value of half a million euros ($554,000) were found packed in plastic bags in the trunk of a car parked outside a restaurant in the eastern town of Shtip late Wednesday.
The three men, two of them Kosovo citizens and the third a Macedonian national, were arrested following a brief chase, police said in a statement. Authorities were searching for a Turkish truck driver whom police suspect was planning to take over the drug shipment.
If charged and convicted, the three men face a minimum of five years in prison.
Police said they also cracked a Macedonian-Bulgarian drug smuggling group on Wednesday, in cooperation with neighboring Bulgaria's department for organized crime and the Southeast European Law Enforcement Center.
Four men, two of them Macedonian nationals, were arrested in that case, and police seized several kilograms (pounds) of amphetamines and other chemicals during searches of their homes.
North Macedonia is at the crossroads of drug trafficking routes, and drug seizures are common there.
Last year, authorities said they disrupted two international drug smuggling groups in several separate operations that led to the arrests of 13 people and the seizure of more than 700 kilograms (1,543 pounds) of marijuana.