Monday, March 27, 2006

IRAQ: Officials note rise in drug trafficking, consumption

BAGHDAD, 27 March (IRIN) - Officials at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs are concerned about a noticeable increase in drug trafficking and drug addiction, especially following the seizure of large quantities of "class A" narcotics by police.

"We estimate that more than 5,000 Iraqis are consuming drugs in the south today, especially heroin, compared with 2004, when there were only around 1,500," said Dr Kamel Ali, a senior official in the health ministry's anti-narcotics programme. "We fear the number could be as high as 10,000 countrywide."

According to Sinan Youssef, a senior official in the social affairs ministry's strategy department, addictions are mainly to heroin, cocaine and marijuana. Local prices for these illicit commodities vary from US $15 to $30 per gram of heroin, and from $10 to $25 per gram of cocaine.

In the past three months, Youssef explained, more than 40 cases of addiction were reported in the capital, Baghdad, and about 50 others in the south of the country. "Kerbala and Najaf are the biggest consumers of drugs," he said.

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