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Iran police kill three Afghans, seize drugs

Iranian police have killed three Afghans in a shoot-out in northeastern...

Iranian police have killed three Afghans in a shoot-out in northeastern Iran near the border with Afghanistan, the official IRNA news agency said yesterday. The "bandits" had crossed the border into Iran's Khorassan province "for hostage taking and extortion purposes", IRNA said.

In a separate incident, police arrested 19 members of a drug smuggling ring, seizing weapons and 860 kilos of drugs in the southern Fars province, the daily Kayhan said. IRNA earlier reported that 22 drug dealers and 240 kilos of opium had been seized by police in Khorasan on Tuesday.

Iran lies on the main drug transit route from Afghanistan and Pakistan, the so-called "Golden Crescent", to lucrative markets in Europe and the Arab states. It also has a domestic drug abuse problem, with some two million addicts and casual users in a population of around 63 million.

The government spent $20 million last year to fight drug trafficking along the 945-kilometre border with Afghanistan. About 3,100 police officers have been killed in clashes with drug traffickers over the past 20 years.