Iraq seizes more than 6 million captagon pills in drug bust
Iraqi security forces said Saturday they had broken up a drug trafficking ring and seized more than six million pills of the amphetamine-type stimulant captagon, making several arrests.
Iraq's northwestern neighbour Syria is the Middle East's main captagon producer, and its southern neighbour Saudi Arabia the main consumer.
Iraqi forces seized "around 6.2 million pills" from a warehouse in the southwest of the capital, the national security agency said in a statement, adding that the drugs were set for distribution "in areas of Baghdad and other provinces".
Three Iraqis and four suspects from other Arab countries were arrested in connection with the trafficking network, it added.
The statement said security forces broke up a second drug ring after an Arab national was arrested "in possession of six kilos (13 pounds) of hashish", while two accomplices were also detained.
All 10 accused "admitted to links with international drug trafficking networks", it said.
Drug trafficking convictions can be punishable by the death penalty in Iraq.
Trade in captagon in the Middle East grew exponentially in 2021 to top $5 billion, posing an increasing health and security risk to the region, a report said earlier this month.
Captagon was the trade name of a drug initially patented in Germany in the early 1960s that contained an amphetamine-type stimulant called fenethylline used to treat attention deficit and narcolepsy among other conditions.
It was later banned and became an illicit drug almost exclusively produced and consumed in the Middle East.
Captagon is now a brand name, with its trademark logo sporting two interlocked "Cs", or crescents, embossed on each tablet, for a drug that often contains little or no fenethylline and is close to what is known in other countries as "speed".
The sale and use of drugs in Iraq has soared in recent years. Security forces have stepped up operations and make almost daily announcements of seizures or arrests.
In the first three months of this year, Iraqi security forces detained 18 suspected drug traffickers in the largely desert province of Anbar, which shares a long border with Syria, according to an official source.
More than three million captagon pills were seized in the same period.