Afghan police find huge opium stash in Helmand

Afghan police men­tored by British troops have dis­cov­ered an opi­um stash worth mil­lions of pounds, along with insur­gent weapons, dur­ing an arrest oper­a­tion in Hel­mand province.

The wet opi­um and weapons dis­cov­ered at an address in Gereshk, in the north­ern part of Nahr‑e Saraj dis­trict in Hel­mand province [Pic­ture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces (ANSF) swooped on the address of a man sus­pect­ed of ille­gal­ly sell­ing gov­ern­ment-owned land in the bustling town of Gereshk, in the north­ern part of Nahr‑e Saraj dis­trict.

Inside, the police and their British part­ners from 1st Bat­tal­ion The Princess of Wales’s Roy­al Reg­i­ment (1 PWRR) found sev­er­al bags of wet opi­um.

The Afghan counter-nar­cotics team were called in, and on fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion the police found a room hid­den under a trap­door — with dozens more bags of the drug hid­den away under­neath.

The total haul weighed in at more than 175kg of wet opi­um — the first stage of pro­cess­ing pop­py to make hero­in.

The team also found two machine guns, a rock­et-pro­pelled grenade launch­er, and sev­er­al AK-47 rifles, along with two pis­tols, pos­si­ble com­po­nents for impro­vised explo­sive devices, and imi­ta­tion ANSF uni­forms.

The sus­pect will now face pros­e­cu­tion under the Afghan jus­tice sys­tem.

The British advi­sors on the oper­a­tion were part of the Police Men­tor­ing and Advi­so­ry Group (PMAG), which is led by 1 PWRR. A 15-man Police Advi­so­ry Team works at each Afghan police head­quar­ters across Task Force Hel­mand to men­tor the police.

Lieu­tenant Paul Charlesworth, 1 PWRR, com­mands the advi­so­ry team at Gereshk. He said:

“Once we got to the com­pound we quick­ly realised this was a real­ly sig­nif­i­cant find. We start­ed to see all the weapons com­ing out, all the ammu­ni­tion, the ANSF uni­forms, and then the opi­um, and called in the provin­cial-lev­el counter-nar­cotics team.

“This is the largest drugs find that I’ve ever been involved in, and the biggest that ISAF forces have been involved in since we arrived in Sep­tem­ber.”

Cor­po­ral Lucas Allan, of the Roy­al Mil­i­tary Police, was at the scene to help guide the Afghan police on gath­er­ing intel­li­gence. He said:

“We encour­age them to try to do the job them­selves, but with guid­ance on the cor­rect way of car­ry­ing it out. We’re try­ing to empha­sise the impor­tance of evi­dence because that and wit­ness­es are the two most vital parts to an inves­ti­ga­tion.

“In this case the job was to make sure it was cor­rect­ly sep­a­rat­ed and account­ed for, not just at the scene, but for onward move­ment to oth­er loca­tions and for han­dover to rel­e­vant author­i­ties.”

Cap­tain Stu­art Bark­er, 3rd Bat­tal­ion The Princess of Wales’s Roy­al Reg­i­ment, said:

“This is a vic­to­ry for joined-up police work, because this sin­gle oper­a­tion involved the PMAG, the spe­cial­ist Police Advi­so­ry Team, the Afghan police, and the counter-nar­cotics police.

“It shows how work­ing togeth­er can pro­duce a real­ly sig­nif­i­cant find which demon­strates the clear con­nec­tion between the drugs trade and vio­lence and inse­cu­ri­ty.”

Lieu­tenant Colonel James Coote is the Com­mand­ing Offi­cer of 1 PWRR and the PMAG. He said:

“This was a sig­nif­i­cant oper­a­tion, both in terms of the weapons cap­tured and the drugs seized. It is impor­tant to note that this was an Afghan police oper­a­tion from start to fin­ish and it is fur­ther evi­dence of the police’s abil­i­ty to oper­ate and enforce the Afghan law.”

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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