Lebanese marijuana growers fight security forces, two hurt

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 03, 2012 8:46 AM
Lebanese marijuana growers fight security forces, two hurt

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Armed Lebanese farmers clashed on Friday with security forces trying to destroy their illegal marijuana crops in the eastern Bekaa Valley, wounding two soldiers and damaging two of their vehicles, witnesses said.

It was the second confrontation in two weeks between Bekaa farmers and security forces who have been using tractors to crush the marijuana plants.

The witnesses and a security source said an officer had been shot and wounded and another member of the security forces had been wounded by an anti-personnel mine. A military vehicle was hit by another mine and a tractor used to dig up the marijuana was damaged by bullets, they said.

During Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, the fertile Bekaa Valley produced up to 1,000 metric tons (1102.3 tons) of cannabis resin annually and 30 to 50 metric tons of opium, used to make heroin.

The crop was eradicated under a United Nations program between 1991-1993 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 drug hashish.

Security forces regularly try to destroy marijuana crops but face resistance from farmers who see the lucrative and easy-to-grow crop as providing valuable income for their impoverished community.

(Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)