Troops declare war on drug dealers: 300 already arrested

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Defence Ministry has thrown the full weight of the armed forces behind the police engaged in a battle against those engaged in the lucrative narcotics trade.

The ministry has gone to the extent of deploying the network once successfully used against the LTTE, particularly in the South, with the focus on Colombo and its suburbs during the eelam war IV.

Military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya yesterday told The Island that troops deployed alongside the police had so far apprehended about 300 suspects along with a substantial quantity of heroin, ganja as well as illicit liquor.

Asked whether the armed forces assigned for this particular task operated independently, Brig.

Wanigasooriya said that the national leadership had authorised the deployment of troops in view of grave threats to the country posed by narcotics dealers.

He said: "The operation is coordinated by the office of the Chief of Defence Staff. The action involves three services and the Special Task Force," The troops would largely depend on those networks developed during the conflict to target the lucrative trade, he said.

Responding to a query, Brig. Wanigasooriya said that troops assigned to Maj. Gen. Sumith Manawadu’s command were spearheading the anti-narcotics operation and detections were made in several places including Jaffna, Vavuniya and the Eastern Province. The t military action had driven the price of heroin in the market up hence making it unaffordable to addicts. "In fact, the operation will target the trade at different levels," Brig. Wanigasooriya said.

Commenting on operations undertaken by the SLN in support of the anti-narcotics drive, Brig. Wanigasooriya said that those deployed on the seas off Sri Lanka had made several major detections since the conclusion of the conflict. Although the armed forces had assisted the police to crack down on the narcotics trade even during the conflict, the ongoing action was the biggest peace-time operation undertaken by them. "We are making detections almost every day in various parts of the country. The suspects are handed over to law enforcement authorities for further action. On August 30 alone troops apprehended four persons in three separate raids and handed them over to police."

Troops assigned to 11 Division on Thursday apprehended a person with 9.74 gms of ganja in his possession and handed him over to Hemmathagama police.

On the same day, troops deployed under the command of 14 Division took into custody two persons with 100 mgs of heroin in their possession at Wattala and handed them over to Negombo police. According to Brig. Wanigasooriya, the arrests had been made at 10 a.m., while another squad also assigned to the same Division arrested a civilian carrying 1,860 mgs of heroin and handed him over to Mirihana police.

Troops attached to 14 Division on August 28 arrested a person with 20.780 gms of ganja in his procession at Grandpass and handed him over to the police. In a separate raid, troops belonging to 14 Division took into custody a person with 320 mgs of heroin in his procession and handed him over to the Maligawatte police.

Brig. Wanigasooriya said that troops remained on alert to act on information provided by anyone wanting to get rid of the narcotics menace.

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