Eleven Iranian police agents were killed when a highway patrol intercepted what officials called an “illicit drug convoy” in Southern Khorasan Province near the Afghan border Jan. 1. Four traffickers were also reported wounded in the clash, and one wounded. Reports said police “attempted to confiscate” around two tons of drugs—but did not indicate what type of drugs, or if the confiscation was successful. Reports also indicate the convoy was headed north, which is not the most logical route if it was leaving Afghanistan, as accounts implied.
Iran lies on a transit corridor between opium-producing Afghanistan and European markets. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the country has lost more than 3,300 of its security forces in drug enforcement operations, authorities say.
Tehran’s counter-narcotics efforts were recently acknowledged by the executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, who said that Iran is “making a massive sacrifice” to stop the smuggling of drugs from Afghanistan to the West, and therefore deserves “both the gratitude and the support of the international community.” During the past Iranian year that ended on March 20, 2009, Iran reportedly seized more than 1,000 tons of opium smuggled from Afghanistan. (Tehran Times, Jan. 4; AP, Xinhua, Jan. 3; Press TV, Jan. 2)