Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Afghans Bonfire Consumes 40 Tons of Drugs

Newsvine

Kabul - Afghan officials destroyed more than 40 tons of confiscated narcotics worth an estimated $500 million on Wednesday in a giant bonfire on the outskirts of Kabul.

Afghan counter narcotics police have also arrested more than 600 drug traffickers, including 19 government officials, over the last year, said Deputy Interior Ministry Gen. Mohammad Daud Daud. Some 63 traffickers have been given long-term jail sentences for drug smuggling, according to the ministry.

"This is a very big achievement, not only for us, but for the international community, too," said Daud.

Afghanistan produces more than 90 percent of the world's opium and heroin. Much of the drugs are thought to be smuggled through Iran and Pakistan to Europe and elsewhere.

The international community has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars (euros) into anti-drug campaigns to train police units to destroy laboratories, arrest smugglers and eradicate opium crops, as well as fund projects to help farmers grow legal crops.

The country's bumper crop of opium last year — enough to make about 450 tons of heroin — has sparked fears Afghanistan is becoming a "narco-state."

The drugs that were burned included 4.1 tons of heroin, 12 tons of opium, and 24 tons of hashish confiscated over the last year. Another 24 tons of chemical ingredients used to make illegal drugs was also destroyed.

Daud praised the work of counter narcotics officials, but said much work remains to be done.

"We eradicated 15,000 hectares of poppy land this year, which is three times more than last year," he said. "Still we have a long way to go before reaching our goal."

It is the third time that the government has staged an event this year to destroy confiscated drugs and alcohol. Last month, 1.5 tons of drugs and 7,000 liters of alcohol were destroyed. More than 20 tons of chemical ingredients were destroyed in May.

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