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Troops in southern Afghanistan seize drugs, bomb-making material

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Processed heroin and raw opium are found in a raid
  • Troops also discovered ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer used to make bombs
  • The Taliban are entrenched in the poppy-producing region

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- About 1.9 tons of processed heroin, 1,800 pounds of raw opium and 200 pounds of "illegal fertilizer" commonly used to make bombs were discovered by troops during a security operation in southern Afghanistan, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said Saturday.

International and Afghan troops were hunting down a senior Taliban commander Friday when they found the material in Helmand province's Now Zad district. The commander, who was not identified, is allegedly involved in the purchase and distribution of bomb-making material, ISAF said.

"The drugs have a U.S. street value of more than $38 million before taking into account the common practice of cutting it with other ingredients which would exponentially increase the value," ISAF said, citing information from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

The discovered fertilizer, ammonium nitrate, "could be used to produce approximately 25 improvised explosive devices," ISAF said.

ISAF notes that the Taliban are "deeply entrenched in the villages of the poppy-producing region" in Helmand, where Afghan and coalition forces have squared off for years.

"The Taliban are known to use the proceeds from the sale of drugs to pay for weapons, IED components, explosives and foreign fighters who are being brought into Kandahar and Helmand provinces by the Taliban," ISAF said.

The security force detained two people in connection with transporting the material, which was destroyed.

"Afghan and international forces will continue to interdict the drugs used to fund insurgent activity and give the people of Helmand the opportunity that security and stability will bring," said Col. Rafael Torres, the director of ISAF Joint Command's Combined Joint Operations Center.