Saturday, October 24, 2009

Helmand drugs cache goes up in smoke

Governor Mangal sets light to 14 tonnes of opium, heroin and precursor chemicals.

FOURTEEN tonnes of opium, heroin and precursor chemicals went up in flames in Helmand on Thursday as Governor Mangal, governor for the province, lit the spark to the seized substances.

The cache was recovered during pro-active counter narcotics police operations in the Lashkar Gah District of Helmand by Afghanistan specialist counter narcotics police and MoD police.

For Governor Mangal, who has been touring Helmand to promote his Food Zone Programme, the drugs-burn was one of a number of events taking place across the province. The programme, which is backed by the UK, is aimed at showing local farmers that there is a viable alternative to growing poppy.

The UK is supporting the Governor's programme with £10 million as part of its commitment to restoring the legitimate agricultural base in Helmand province. All farmers receiving the subsidized wheat seed sign a commitment not to grow poppy.

Around 70,000 farmers have benefited from the programme in the past year.

The last year has also seen a 33 per cent cut in poppy cultivation, with an even higher target set for this year. The programme is being expanded to cover eight districts including Kanashin for the first time where US Marines have helped stabilise the area.

Detective Superintendent Dave Wright EU Police Advisor was at the event, having worked alongside the Afghan National Police:

"The money that would have come from the sale of the opium would undoubtedly have funded insurgents' activities, extending their presence in the region and increasing their ability to launch deadly attacks on the local population and coalition forces.

"This show of force hits at the heart of the insurgency because it significantly reduces their capability to continue the fight. With fewer numbers and diminished resources, they are simply less effective."

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