Iran Arrests Hundreds of Drug Smugglers, Report Says
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ Almost 900 people were arrested on drug charges in Iran over the past several days as the country prepares to enforce a law that provides the death penalty for drug traffickers, the Islamic Republic News Agency said Tuesday.
The police sweep was designed to put pressure on traffickers before the tough new law is implemented on Jan. 21, said IRNA, monitored in Nicosia.
The law provides the death sentence for anyone found possessing more than an ounce of heroin or five kilograms (11 pounds) of opium and for any drug dealer carrying firearms or who repeatedly addicted other people.
In an attempt to prevent drugs from entering Iran, the government has declared off limits to all unauthorized people a 200-kilometer-long (124-mile) strip of the southern border near Afghanistan, the oficial agency said.
″No one should get near this area,″ said Mahmoud Mir-Lohi, commander of the Islamic Revolution Committees, Iran’s police. ″We believe that drug caravans are using this area and forces stationed there have been ordered to deal firmly with any unauthorized personnel.″
Mir-Lohi said police foiled 21 attempts by traffickers to enter Iran through that area in the past two months, and 50 security posts were set up in the eastern provinces.
IRNA said police killed or wounded 27 drug traffickers in gunfights since Sunday. It said the smugglers were trying to flee into the mountains near Nasak, in southeastern Kerman province.
It reported that 543 of those arrested recently were seized in Khorasan province, near Afghanistan, and 250 pounds of drugs and 12 firearms were confiscated. It did not identify the types of drugs.
An additional 346 people were arrested and more than 500 pounds of drugs were seized elsewhere in Iran, including in Tehran, the report said.