Indian troops claim three drug smugglers killed near Wagah border

Indian troops shot dead three alleged Pakistani smugglers carrying drugs worth millions of dollars as they sought to sneak into India through the northeastern state of Punjab, an Indian border security official claimed Saturday.

India’s paramilitary Border Security Force (BSF), which patrols the India-Pakistan border, said it found 24 kilograms of heroin worth 1.2 billion Indian rupees ($19.5 million), along with weapons, ammunition and Pakistani mobile phones late Friday.

“Last night, three Pakistani intruders crossed over to the Indian territory and were challenged by the BSF night patrol, but the intruders declined to surrender and fired gun shots at the BSF,” Ajay Tomar, Punjab BSF Inspector General, told reporters. “In retaliation, BSF troops fired 19 rounds and the intruders were killed on the spot.”

A massive search has been launched to check for any other people crossing illegally from Pakistan in the area near the Wagah international border crossing, he said.

Wagah is the only road border crossing between the Indian city of Amritsar and the Pakistani city of Lahore.

Local media reported last week that the BSF had seized 100 kilograms of heroin worth five billion Indian rupees ($81 million) in the last two months, adding that drug trafficking had spiked at the border, which prompted BSF to increase round-the-clock patrolling.

Indian Punjab, once the wealthiest state in Asia’s third-largest economy, has now become a key smuggling route for drugs that come in from Afghanistan through neighbouring Pakistan.

Punjab’s slowing economy and high unemployment rates have made youth more vulnerable to drug addiction, experts say.

The drugs smuggled into India are mainly destined for Europe, but also find buyers in the state of 27 million.

It is estimated that two-thirds of all rural households in Indian Punjab have at least one drug addict, according to a 2009 state survey.