KABUL, Afghanistan – A bomb tore through a jeep carrying Afghan anti-drug police in eastern Afghanistan (search), killing three officers and injuring two more, an official said Sunday, in the first deadly attack on the country's new counternarcotics forces.
The bomb hit the vehicle on Saturday in Kunar province, where the five-strong team were surveying opium cultivation, said Gen. Said Kamal Sadat, chief of the federal Counter-Narcotics Police (search). A second jeep carrying provincial police escaped the blast.
Sadat blamed drug traffickers for the attack, though had no evidence to support his assertion.
"The smugglers are not able to attack us directly, but are trying to find other ways to resist," Sadat said. "They hit their target."
Afghanistan last year produced about 87 percent of the world's illicit opium, the raw material for heroin, sparking warnings that it is turning into a "narco-state" three years after U.S. forces ousted the Taliban (search) and ended its role as a haven for Al Qaeda.
Authorities have responded with a crackdown using new anti-drug forces funded by donors including the United States and Britain. The units have smashed a string of drug laboratories, including several in Nangarhar province, which borders Kunar, and made several arrests.
Donors are also channeling hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to help farmers switch to alternative crops.
However, an effort to destroy opium poppy crops has met with armed resistance from farmers, and several police have been reported injured.
Sadat said the team attacked on Saturday had surveyed opium crops in 15 different provinces and had almost finished working in Kunar. He confirmed it was the first fatal attack on the force.
The Interior Ministry, which controls the Counter-Narcotics Police, on Saturday sent federal police to northern Balkh province to destroy poppy crops there. Eradication is also underway in the warmer south, where farmers have already begun to harvest this year's crop.