Iran Kills 20 Drug Traffickers, Frees 2 Hostages Near Afghan Border
Iranian soldiers killed 20 drug traffickers and freed two hostages during an anti-drug operation near eastern Iran's border with Afghanistan, state radio announced Friday.
The two hostages were identified only as villagers who were freed in the area of Salehabad, near Torbat-e-Jam, the radio said.
Commenting on what has been an escalating round of violence between smugglers and authorities, the government was quoted as saying 100 people identified as bandits and drug traffickers had been killed in clashes over the past two weeks in eastern Iran.
On Monday, the radio had announced the killing of an Iranian soldier and the taking of eight hostages by drug traffickers in eastern Iran.
Some of that fighting was along the Afghan border.
For several weeks, the Iranian army has led a campaign against drug traffickers in Iran's two eastern provinces, which border Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Afghan border has a growing reputation for lawlessness.
In May, the Iranian parliament approved a bill for an "anti-drug wall" along the 940 kilometer-long (582 miles) border with Afghanistan.
Iran, a Shiite Muslim state, regularly blames the Sunni Taliban militia, which now controls most of Afghanistan, for the region's heavy drug trade.
Iran is a major transshipment point for drugs headed to markets in the Gulf, central Asia and Europe -- TEHRAN (AFP)
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