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Afghan Poppy Farmers Revolt

April 8, 2002

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) _ Tribal poppy farmers in eastern Afghanistan opened fire on provincial officials surveying their fields as a government program to eradicate opium poppies began Monday. At least one official was reported killed.

Shenwari tribesmen also blocked the highway between Kabul, the Afghan capital, and Pakistan, pelting vehicles with rocks, according to travelers arriving in this border town.

Pir Haideri, an official with the Nangarhar provincial government in Jalalabad, said the official in charge of security on the Pakistan-Afghan Highway was killed in the shooting in Marco, 12 miles into Afghanistan. Four others were wounded, he said.

Hashim Khan, a traveler arriving here, put the death toll at four, including the security official and two Afghan workers for a nongovernment organization working to eradicate poppy fields. Haideri said he knew of one death but that his information could be incomplete.

Afghanistan once was the source of roughly 70 percent of the world’s opium. The Taliban banned the crop in 2000, but the rout of the Islamic extremist militia after a U.S. bombing campaign last year prompted farmers to quickly replant their crops.

As of Monday, the new Afghan government was offering poor farmers about $500 an acre to destroy narcotic-bearing poppy flowers. The program has angered many farmers because the sum falls far short of the narcotic’s market value.

There also were reports of violence at a demonstration against the program in southern Helmand province. Khan Aka, a 40-year-old farmer, said one man was killed and two were wounded when security forces opened fire on the protesters.

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