Dope farmers repel army in crop battle
Farmers armed with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars have forced Lebanese government troops to abandon an operation to destroy their illegal cannabis crop in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.
The farmers’ attack halted a morning raid yesterday by security forces, who had been flattening the tall spiky marijuana plants with tractors, accompanied by armoured vehicles.
No casualties were reported in the ensuing exchange of fire, but two security force vehicles were hit by bullets, a witness said.
During Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war, the fertile Bekaa Valley produced up to 1,000 tonnes of cannabis resin annually and 30 to 50 tonnes of opium, used to make heroin.
The crop was eradicated under a United Nations programme between 1991-93 but it has re-emerged as the security forces struggle to control the volatile country.
More recent statistics from the United Nations consider Lebanon to be among the top five countries that produce cannabis resin, used to produce the substance hashish.
Security forces regularly try to destroy marijuana crops but face resistance from farmers who see the lucrative and easy-to-grow crop as valuable income for their impoverished community.
The farmers were likely to have been backed by drug traffickers who are well funded and armed.
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