THIRTEEN people have been arrested and 56 guns plus 80kg of heroin have been seized following raids in West Kirby, Birkenhead and Bulgaria.

The arrests follow the interception of two packages destined for Merseyside which contained 14 guns, eight silencers and 691 rounds of ammunition.

Nine suspects were arrested in West Kirby and Birkenhead by NCA and Merseyside Police officers on Monday, September 16 along with three additional firearms and ammunition recovered.

Around £20,000 in cash, cannabis and more than 600 ecstasy tablets were also seized.

In coordinated strikes, Bulgarian law enforcement arrested four suspects – including a UK national – and seized 39 handguns, 21 silencers, 1,253 rounds of ammunition and 80kg of heroin which was intended for the UK.

The guns included Makarov pistols and Zoraki handguns.

The majority of the seized weapons were blank firers converted to be lethal.

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Paul Risby, NCA Branch Commander, said: “This represents a really significant triumph in our fight against gun trafficking into the UK.

“The NCA and partners in Bulgaria and Merseyside Police have stopped lethal firearms from entering the UK’s criminal market and hugely disrupted an organised crime group.

“One of the NCA’s key objectives is to prevent criminals in the UK accessing firearms.

“They have a catastrophic impact and enable serious and organised crime by helping criminals to violently dominate the communities they operate in.

“We work relentlessly with partners at home and abroad to cut off supply routes and take action against those involved.

“Gun crime in the UK continues to be relatively low compared to mainland Europe.

“However, we know that illegal firearms are used in acts of serious violence and by crime groups to coerce and intimidate.”

Of the UK arrests, there were five men and four women aged 22 to 50.

All suspects were arrested for conspiracy to import firearms.

Eight property searches were conducted by joint NCA and Merseyside Police teams.

Detective chief inspector Steve Reardon of Merseyside Police, said: “Our joint activity has led to the recovery of guns and ammunition being smuggled into the country for use in serious violent crime and people have been arrested in connection with the importation of these weapons.

"It’s operations like this one that show why it is so important to work together with other agencies to target these individuals and make our streets and communities safer.

“Merseyside Police is relentless in its pursuit of those involved in serious organised crime, and the use of firearms on our streets, and by working with the NCA we have taken out a significant supply of weapons.

"I would urge anyone who has any information about those involved in serious organised crime, or gun crime, on Merseyside to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, and we will act on all information received.”