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Anti-poppy drive in Helmand soon: Mangal

Anti-poppy drive in Helmand soon: Mangal

Feb 19, 2011 - 19:59

LASHKARGAH (PANinfo-icon): An anti-poppy campaign would be launched soon in 10 districts of southern Helmand province, the worldinfo-icon's largest opium-producing region, a governor said on Saturday.

The campaign would target areas where farmers were provided with improved wheat seeds and fertilizers under the Food Zone Programme, Gulab Mangal told a gathering of tribal elders.

This time around, the governor said, the campaign would involve Afghan army and international forces. In the past, only police would provide security for the campaigners. The drive would also be extended to other parts of the province, Mangal said, claiming a 40 percent reduction in poppy cultivation this year.

He said that 97 tractors were being used in Lashkargah and southern districts to eradicate poppy crops. More tractors will be hired for the campaign northern districts.

International Security Assistance Force counternarcotics expert in Helmand, Maj. Rob Strokin, said they would take part in the campaign only in certain areas. He said they would not be part of counternarcotics operations in remote parts.

Helmandpolice chief, Col. Kamaluddin Sherzai, said police were ready for the drive, but they needed assistance from Afghan army and international forces.

He said they could face many challenges, including plantation of bombs by Talibaninfo-icon in farmlands and the reaction of growers.

Last year, 23 policemen were killed and 45 others were wounded during a campaign against poppy cultivation in the province.

am/ma

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