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Tajiks Seize Biggest Drugs Haul Since Independence

DUSHANBE (Reuters) -- Tajik security forces have seized more than 500 kilograms of drugs in the biggest drugs haul since independence from the Soviet Union, the Interior Ministry has said.

The impoverished country lies on the main trafficking route out of neighboring Afghanistan, the world's top producer of opium and its refined form, heroin.

The ministry said a Soviet-era truck loaded with 530 kilograms of drugs was intercepted while traveling from the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, to the northern city of Khujand.

"The driver...has been arrested. Hundreds of kilograms of hashish and dozens of heroin were discovered in the truck's body," said a ministry spokesman. "It is the biggest haul in terms of volume that has ever been seized in Tajikistan."

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Tajikistan has struggled to contain heroin smuggling from Afghanistan, with poverty and unemployment making it an easy conduit for trafficking.

After passing through Tajikistan, batches of heroin are spirited to the north across Central Asia and Russia until they reach the streets of London or Paris where a kilogram of heroin can fetch as much as $300,000.