Lebanon seizes 142 kg of illicit drugs in major bust with help from Saudi authorities

Lebanon’s police said Saturday it has seized more than 800,000 pills of the amphetamine-type stimulant captagon worth around $12 million in a bust coordinated with Saudi authorities. (AFP)
Updated 14 April 2019

Lebanon seizes 142 kg of illicit drugs in major bust with help from Saudi authorities

  • Captagon is classified by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime as an “amphetamine-type stimulant” and usually blends amphetamines, caffeine and other substances
  • The drug is commonly used in the Syrian war, where fighters say it helps them stay awake for days and numbs their senses

BEIRUT:  Police in Lebanon have seized more than 800,000 pills of the stimulant Captagon worth about $12 million in an operation coordinated with Saudi authorities.

Police stopped a refrigerated truck containing 142 kilograms of the illicit drug on April 9, Lebanese authorities revealed on Saturday.

The operation followed a tip-off from Saudi Arabia’s Directorate of Narcotics Control that drug smugglers planned to transport a large shipment of Captagon to an unidentified Arab country by land, they said.

The truck was seized near the town of Chtaura in the Bekaa Valley, and a 32-year-old Syrian national was arrested, a security source told Arab News. The drug was professionally hidden and would not have been found by a scanner, the source said.

Captagon is commonly used in the Syrian war, where fighters say it helps them stay awake for days and numbs their senses.

The drug is classified by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime as an “amphetamine-type stimulant” and usually blends amphetamines, caffeine and other substances.

Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria are usually assumed to be transit or production territories for illicit Captagon, according to the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

A source said there had been an escalation in the smuggling of Captagon in Lebanon.  “Captagon factories do not need large areas and the security forces in Lebanon have seized many Captagon factories on their territory.”

Gangs also used different smuggling methods. “There was an attempt last week to smuggle Captagon pills inside furniture, and before that inside motorbikes and trucks.”

Cooperation with Saudi security services was “continuous and distinctive and always has positive results,” the source said.


At least 13 people drown in migrant shipwreck off Libya

Updated 10 min 10 sec ago

At least 13 people drown in migrant shipwreck off Libya

  • The boat had set off from the town of Zliten, east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli
  • The Libyan Coast Guard said that it had ordered the rescue, and that search teams were scouring the area

CAIRO: Over a dozen migrants trying to reach Europe drowned in the Mediterranean Sea when their small dinghy capsized off the coast of Libya, the United Nations reported Friday, the latest shipwreck to underscore the deadly risks facing those who flee the war-afflicted North African country.
Libyan fishermen spotted the sinking boat late Thursday, said the International Organization for Migration, and managed to pull 22 people from the water, including those from Egypt, Bangladesh, Syria, Somalia and Ghana.
But at least 13 of the other passengers were missing and presumed drowned. Three dead bodies were found floating in the water, including one Syrian man and woman. The boat had set off from the town of Zliten, east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, late on Wednesday.
The Libyan Coast Guard said that it had ordered the rescue, and that search teams were scouring the area for more victims.
“So many boats are leaving these days, but autumn is a very difficult season,” said Commodore Masoud Abdal Samad. “When it gets windy, it’s deadly. It changes in an instant.”
Following the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants hoping to get to Europe from Africa and the Middle East. Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stall and founder along the perilous Central Mediterranean route. At least 20,000 people have died in those waters since 2014, according to the UN
Those who survived Friday’s disaster were taken to the Tripoli port, where they received medical care for their burns, a common consequence of leaked engine fuel mixing with saltwater, said Safa Msehli, an IOM spokeswoman.
Libyan authorities shepherded the survivors to the Zliten detention center, run by the Tripoli-based government’s Interior Ministry. Migrants rescued at sea and returned to Libya routinely land in detention centers notorious for torture, extortion and abuse. Amnesty International revealed in a report Thursday that thousands of migrants have been forcibly disappeared from unofficial militia-run detention centers.
The shipwreck, the second to be recorded by the UN in as many weeks, “signals the need now more than ever for state-led search and rescue capacity to be redeployed and the need to support NGO vessels operating in a vacuum,” said Msehli.
Since 2017, European countries, particularly Italy, have delegated most search-and-rescue responsibility to the Libyan Coast Guard, which intercepts migrant boats before they can reach European waters. Activists have lamented that European authorities are increasingly blocking the work of nongovernmental rescue organizations that patrol the Mediterranean and seek to disembark at European ports.