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Afghan Officials Burn 6.5 Tons of Drugs, Predict Rise in Poppy-Free Provinces

KABUL (AP) — Afghan counter-drug officials destroyed 6.5 tons (6 metric tons) of drugs in a raging bonfire Sunday they said symbolized recent successes in Afghanistan’s fight against opium poppies and heroin.

The drugs, which were burned in large pile on a sloping mountainside on the outskirts of Kabul, were confiscated by authorities over the last three to four months, said Gen. Khodaidad, the country’s counternarcotics minister.

“This is a big success against terrorism, against people who are producing poppies,” said Khodaidad, who like many Afghans goes by one name. “Poppy mainly supports the insurgency in Afghanistan.”

The Taliban and other warlords may have earned almost a half billion dollars from Afghanistan’s 2008 opium trade, the head of the U.N.’s Office on Drugs and Crime has said.

Still, Khodaidad acknowledged that the 6.5 tons of drugs — including heroin, opium, hashish and chemicals to turn opium into heroin — was only a symbolic drop in the bucket. A U.N. report last year said Afghan farmers produced 7,700 tons (7,000 metric tons) of opium in 2008 with an export value estimated at $3.4 billion.

Gen. Dawood Dawood, the top counternarcotics officer in the Interior Ministry, said officials hoped to increase the number of poppy-free provinces from 18 last year to 26 this year. Khodaidad, perhaps providing a more realistic assessment, said he hoped the number increased to 22 or 23 this year.

Dawood said Sunday’s drug burn was a “big achievement” for the country’s counternarcotics police.

“If we do not burn the drugs, thousands of others will become drug addicts,” he said. “By burning this amount of opium and narcotics we show the people we are committed to the fight against drugs.”

In the country’s latest violence, police on Sunday said a roadside bomb in the eastern province of Khost on Saturday killed three border police. Three police were also wounded in the attack.

Related News: U.S. Reports Finds Decline in Opium in Afghanistan

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