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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Border Guards Seize 3.1 tons of Drugs

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan - Russian border guards in Tajikistan seized 3.1 tons of drugs from smugglers trying to cross the border from Afghanistan last year - twice the amount of drugs confiscated the previous year, officials said Friday.

Major General Alexander Markin, the Russian border troops commander in Tajikistan, said his forces also seized 801.4 kilograms of heroin in 2000 - the record amount in eight years - from smugglers trying to traffic the drugs from Afghanistan to Tajikistan.

Russian troops help Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic in Central Asia, patrol its border with Afghanistan against incursions by drug smugglers and rebel fighters.

Tajikistan, which remains restive despite the end of a five-year civil war between the government and the largely Islamic opposition, has become a main transit route for heroin and other drugs produced in Afghanistan and trafficked to Russia and further to Europe.

Shootouts with smugglers and gunmen trying to cross into Tajikistan left four Russian troops killed and seven wounded last year, he said. Sixty-one gunmen were arrested, and some 30 were estimated killed in the clashes, he said.

Russian border troops were on high alert throughout last year, Markin said. Tension rose last autumn, when Afghan's radical Taliban militia advanced close to the border regions.

Tajikistan is also worried about an influx of rebels from Afghanistan, many of whom are staying along the border. Markin said that some 9,000 Afghan refugees are already living on islands of the Pyandzh River, which marks the frontier between Afghanistan and Tajikistan.