Europol shuts down illicit 'dark web' market
International police raid closes AlphaBay website selling drugs and guns
Police have closed down the largest marketplace on the "dark web", where traders sell illicit items such as drugs, weapons and stolen data - after an international investigation.
US law enforcement agencies announced they had been working with Europol and police in the Netherlands, UK, France and Lithuania to shut AlphaBay and arrest those involved in running it. The site went offline earlier this month, prompting speculation among users that it had been seized by the authorities.
The raid, which was described by Wired as part of a wider sting operation, is said to have thrown "the dark net into chaos", with buyers and sellers scrambling to find new online venues while the authorities logged their user names, passwords and activities.
Acting FBI director Andrew McCabe called the operation a "landmark" in international law enforcement.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: "The dark net is not a place to hide. This is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of the year – taking down the largest dark net marketplace in history."
Europol believes the raid will lead to hundreds of new investigations in Europe, saying AlphaBay carried more than 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals.
According to Reuters, the operation is "one of the largest ever taken against criminals on the dark web", a part of the internet accessible only through certain software and typically used anonymously.
The closure of AlphaBay is "likely to strike a blow to the international drug trade that has increasingly moved online in recent years", adds the news agency, but criminals "will just flock to other places".
Earlier this month, the BBC reported the arrest of 26-year-old Canadian Alexandre Cazes, an alleged AlphaBay administrator who was detained in Thailand following a joint operation between US, Canadian and Thai authorities.
He was later found dead in a Bangkok jail cell in what the US Justice Department said was a suicide.