'First' captagon lab found in Iraq: ministry

AFP , Sunday 16 Jul 2023

Iraq said Sunday it has found a site in a province bordering Saudi Arabia where captagon is produced, a rare discovery in a country that has become a transit route for the illicit drug.

Iraq
This handout photograph released by the Iraqi Interior Ministry s official Facebook page on July 16, 2023, shows Iraq s Interior Ministry spokesman General Saad Maan inspecting bags of captagon pills. AFP

 

"Today, and maybe for the first time, a laboratory where captagon is produced was found," interior ministry spokesman General Saad Maan said in a video posted online.

Iraq has long been a transit country for captagon, the amphetamine-like stimulant plaguing the Middle East, but officials say it has also become a consumer market for the drug.

The laboratory was discovered in the southern province of Muthana, a statement from the ministry said.

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia is believed to be the largest market for the drug.

The ministry did not announce any arrests but said the site contained machines capable of producing captagon pills as well as 27.5 kilogrammes of raw materials.

The vast majority of the region's captagon, which derives its name from a once legal drug use to combat narcolepsy, is produced in Syria -- another Iraqi neighbour -- and Lebanon.

Iraqi authorities have stepped up raids that have netted large amounts of captagon.

But Sunday's announcement appears to be a game changer, according to Maan, who said finding the laboratory shows that there is a "bid by some to launch (captagon) production in the country".

On Friday, Iraqi security forces said they had dismantled an "international drug trafficking ring" and arrested three of its members in Muthana province. Two million captagon pills were also seized.

Syria said at an Arab foreign ministers meeting in May that it was ready to "strengthen cooperation" with Jordan and Iraq, "affected by drug-trafficking and smuggling across the Syrian border".

Areas in central and southern Iraq bordering Iran have become major narcotic trafficking routes for drugs, including crystal methamphetamine.

In November 2022, Iraqi security forces announced the arrest of a man producing "large quantities of crystal meth" in Iraq with fabrication skills acquired abroad.

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