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Tajiks Detain Suspected Afghan Drug Smuggler

QURGHONTEPPA, Tajikistan -- Tajik authorities say a suspected Afghan drug smuggler has been detained with 40 kilograms of drugs in Tajikistan's southern Khatlon Province, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Ofoq Qodiri, spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry branch in Khatlon told RFE/RL on June 30 that Aziz valadi Sohib, a resident of the village of Imom-Sohib in Afghanistan's northern Konduz Province, was detained with 16 kilograms of heroin and 24 kilograms of cannabis that he allegedly sought to smuggle into Tajikistan.

The suspect appeared later on June 30 at a press conference in Qurghonteppa and admitted to illegally crossing the border and attempting to smuggle drugs. He said he is a farmer and was tricked by drug smugglers who took him to the border and used him as a courier.

The Tajik authorities said they do not believe that account, and suspect the man is a member of an international organized criminal group active in the region.

Muslihiddin Mardonov, an official in Tajikistan's Antidrug Agency, said members of at least five organized crime groups trafficking drugs have recently been arrested in southern Tajikistan.

Citizens of Tajikistan and Afghanistan work together in two of those groups, Mardonov added.

Veteran Antidrug Agency official Boqi Abdulloev told RFE/RL that it is clear some of these organized crime groups receive help from members of Tajikistan's power structures.

Last year, two officers from the border guard forces of Tajikistan's State Committee for National Security were sentenced to 12 and 17 years in prison for their roles in organized crime groups.

The Tajik authorities said that some residents of Tajikistan's border areas illegally cross the border into Afghanistan and smuggle drugs back into Tajikistan and then into neighboring countries and Russia.

Tajik officials say seven residents of the southern Kulob and Shuroobod districts were recently sentenced to long prison terms for drug smuggling and illegal drug dealing. They added that this year alone, Tajik border guards have prevented 12 illegal border crossings by citizens of Afghanistan.