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The Mozambican defence and security forces on Monday detained 13 Pakistani citizens who were attempting to smuggle over 430 kilos of heroin into the country, according to a report in the independent newssheet “Carta de Mozambique”.
In a joint operation between the Mozambican navy and the National Criminal Investigation Service (SERNIC), the Pakistanis were arrested when their boat ran aground on a sandbank in the Bay of Pemba, off the coast of the northern province of Cabo Delgado.
When they realised they were being pursued, the traffickers tried to sink their boat and destroy the evidence. They damaged the boat but SERNIC was able to seize the drugs, and arrest all 13 people on board. The age of the Pakistanis was estimated at between 30 and 75. The drug was being carried in plastic bags and bowls.
These detentions follow the seizure a week earlier of 12 Iranian heroin smugglers, who used exactly the same type of wooden boats. The Iranians were more successful than the Pakistanis in destroying the evidence – they set the boat and its cargo of 1.5 tonnes of heroin on fire, and then attempted to escape by jumping into the sea. Of the 15 people on board the Iranian vessel, 12 were detained, and the other three are believed to have drowned.
The two seizures show graphically how Mozambique is used as a corridor in the heroin trade. The heroin, probably from Afghanistan, is taken by small boats to the northern Mozambican coast, and then broken up into smaller amounts to be carried overland.
The Mozambican market for drugs is unlikely to absorb two tonnes of heroin in a fortnight. The final destination is likely to be South Africa.
Sources in Pemba told “Carta de Mocambique” that the Iranians are not cooperating with the authorities. Since the evidence of drug trafficking was destroyed, it may prove impossible to give them a sentence tougher than deportation to Iran.
With the Pakistanis, a successful trial is much more likely. Once laboratory tests have proved that the substance seized is heroin, the 13 will be sent to the Cabo Delgado top security prison.
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