Eighteen police killed this year in Afghan war on opium

AFP – Afghanistan’s efforts to stem opium production have left 18 police dead and another 33 wounded this year, most of them in clashes during poppy eradication, a deputy minister said.

The deputy interior minister, General Mohammad Daud Daud, also announced that more than 26,000 hectares (64,220 acres) of opium fields out of a targeted 30,000 hectares for the year had been eradicated, an improvement over 2006.

About 160,000 hectares was under poppy cultivation in 2006, a 59 percent increase from the previous year, according to the government and UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The area was expected to have risen this year although exact figures were pending a new survey due to be released in July.

“One counternarcotics policeman and 17 national police helping poppy eradication have been martyred,” Daud told reporters.

“Three counternarcotics police and 30 national police have been wounded so far this year,” he said.

The eradication drive had been more successful this year than last “despite some armed resistances in some provinces,” said Deputy Minister for Counternarcotics General Khodadad, who uses only one name.

In 2006 the eradication campaign destroyed more than 15,000 hectares of opium fields, a 330 percent increase compared with 2005, according to the survey.

Officials say funds from Afghanistan’s opium trade, which makes up 90 percent of the world’s supply of the drug, finance a Taliban insurgency that is fiercest in the south where most of the crop is grown.

“Drug traffickers, Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other enemy elements of Afghanistan have joined hands against peace in our country,” said Khodadad.

The Group of Eight nations expressed concern about the surge in opium poppy production in Afghanistan on Friday in a declaration adopted at the end of a two-day meeting in Munich.

“We remain fully committed to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the government in its efforts to bring about a sustainable reduction in the cultivation and trafficking of narcotics,” they said.

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