Six heroin labs destroyed in Afghan crackdown

Raids conducted in country that is not only a world leader in producing drugs, but also a leading consumer.

    Six heroin labs destroyed in Afghan crackdown
    Afghanistan grows about 80 percent of the world's opium, which is used to produce highly addictive heroin [AP]

    Officials say six heroin laboratories have been destroyed in the south of Afghanistan, a country that is not only a world leader in producing drugs, but also a leading consumer.

    The Ministry of Interior said the laboratories were destroyed during a special military operation late on Saturday in Bando village in Helmand province.

    The ministry said 1,090kg of morphine, 15,175kg of ammonium chloride and 2,000 litres of liquid opium, which is used in making heroin, were also destroyed.

    "The crackdown on these labs are part of efforts to fight drug addiction in Afghanistan," Zabihullah Dayem, a senior adviser to the counter-narcotics minister, told Al Jazeera.

    READ MORE: Afghanistan's war on drugs

    "This operation was conducted in an area under conflict, by which I mean an area that is under the Taliban or contested."  

    "At least six armed militants were killed," Dayem said.

    He added that conflict makes it difficult for law enforcement to conduct such operations frequently, as civilian casualties are feared.

    Afghanistan grows about 80 percent of the world's opium, which is used to produce highly addictive heroin.

    An estimated 1.6 million Afghans are drug addicts, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

    Laila Haidari, an Afghan activist known as "Mother" to hundreds of former drug addicts, runs a drug rehab centre in Kabul. She told Al Jazeera that the government is not doing enough to fight the "curse", referring to the drug epidemic in Afghanistan.

    She said that rather than "destroying a few labs", authorities should focus on bringing awareness to the drug issue and change the mindset of people.

    "They are not honest, they lie about numbers and release reports like these to prove that they are doing their job, whereas, nothing is being done about drug addicts in Afghanistan," she said.

    "There are many people I know are selling and making these harmful drugs in laboratories across Afghanistan. Why are the authorities turning a blind eye to this?"

    Maryam, a 26-year-old opium addict, told Al Jazeera that there is "no escape" from drug addiction in the country as drugs are readily available.

    "I am fighting every day of my life, my husband is an addict as well and I have three children," she said, adding that she has no option but to beg on the streets.

    "We have tried going to rehabilitation centres, but to be honest, it does not work. Many patience relapse as soon as they head out of the centres." 

    READ MORE: Helping Afghanistan's forgotten drug addicts

    Opium production in Afghanistan rose to 4,800 metric tonnes in 2016, up by 43 percent compared with the previous year, according the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and the UNODC in October.

    The report also showed a 91 percent decrease in eradication of opium production in 2016.

    "There are powerful drug warlords who are running these laboratories, and the truth is, our government is too weak to confront them," Haidari said. 

    "Afghanistan is the safest place for terrorism and illegal drugs."

    Fatima Faizi from Kabul contributed reporting

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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