The Basra Operations Command seized a container loaded with 80 million narcotic pills in the southern port of Umm Qasr, which was labeled the largest amount apprehended in Iraq’s war against drugs.
"Based on accurate intelligence, filed in a follow-up to intensive efforts by the Basra Operations Command, a container was found in the southern port of Umm Qasr containing narcotic pills," a statement from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense said on its official website.
The statement did not mention the type of pills found but did said there were an estimated “80 million pills in small school bags.”
Some sources speculated that the pills were Captagon.
The statement, issued on Wednesday, said that the Operations Command in Basra “launched investigations on how these drugs entered Iraq, and gave orders for taking necessary measures and making needed arrests.”
More so, the probe will look into the company which imported the container and how papers were tampered with and port employees swayed.
Sources with knowledge of the matter in Basra said the shipment came from India through UAE ports and accused militias of employing proxies at ports in Basra to facilitate the smuggling of various goods, including drugs for large sums of money.
The latest shipment of smuggled pills highlights the magnitude of the challenge facing Iraq in general and the southern provinces in particular, as the wave of drugs hit the country hard in recent years.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi issued a decree to establish a committee of eight members of university professors and specialists to assess drug smuggling in the south.
The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Cabinet's decision was made at the request of Ali Douai, governor of Maysan, 360 kilometers south of Baghdad. He asked the federal government to intervene and solve the drugs being trafficked from waterways linked to Iran.
"The drug issue in the south has risen strongly since 2013. It coincided somewhat with the rise of ISIS in the west of the country," said Dr. Khalid Hantoush, a fellow in the eight-member committee.
“There is a plot aiming to flood Iraqis in western regions with violence, and those in the south with drugs,” said Hantoush.