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Tajik Forces Kill Afghan Opium Smugglers

DUSHANBE (Reuters) - Tajik border guards have shot dead a group of Afghan drug smugglers and seized more than 250 kilograms of opium and other drugs, a border-guard spokeswoman said.

Tajikistan lies on the main trafficking route out of neighboring Afghanistan -- the world's top producer of opium and its refined form, heroin -- to Western Europe.

Yelena Alekseyeva, the spokeswoman, said a number of Afghan smugglers were killed in a shoot-out with Tajik forces on the border but could not say how many.

"During the operation, a large quantity of drugs was seized and a number of criminals were killed," she said.

With treacherous terrain and leaky borders, Tajikistan is a haven for drug smuggling out of Afghanistan, which produced a record 8,200 tons of opium last year.

The impoverished nation has struggled to contain the problem since independence from Moscow, with analysts saying its security forces intercept only a fraction of the total traffic.