Iranian police killed 24 drug smugglers in a Sunday night "shoot-out" near the Afghan border, the Associated Press reported, citing Iranian state radio. Curiously, there were no accounts of any killed or wounded police in what must have been a very one-sided "shoot-out."
While drug smuggling from neighboring Afghanistan has been going on for decades, the rise of Afghanistan to global preeminence in the opium trade -- it now accounts for up to 93% of global opium production, according to the UN -- has only heightened the flow of opium, and increasingly, heroin processed in Afghan labs, into Iran. Some of that commerce is destined for consumption within the Islamic Republic, which boasts the world's highest opiate addiction rate, while the rest is destined for markets in the Middle East and Europe.
Police reported seizing guns and drugs during the lethal exchange in Taybad. That's not surprising: Iran seized 330 tons of drugs, mostly opium and heroin, and some marijuana and hashish in 2006. Last year's figures, which have not yet been released, will probably be similar, if not higher.