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Iraqi drug trafficker freed in ambush while travelling to court

Armed men posing as soldiers forced more than 100 police officers to hand over the suspected drug trafficker
Iraqi policemen who numbered about 100 had no choice but to surrender their prisoner to armed men, a police source said (AFP/file photo)

An Iraqi drug trafficker suspected of having ties with an armed group escaped on Monday after men disguised as soldiers forced the police to hand him over while he was being transported to court. 

The trafficker who has not been named was arrested on Sunday for holding a "large quantity of drugs" in the southern province of Maysan.

A police source told AFP that at least 100 policemen escorted the trafficker to a court in Amara before armed men dressed as soldiers ambushed the convoy. 

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"They arrived in four 4x4 vehicles, all of them armed, and the police who numbered about 100 had no other choice but to surrender their prisoner," he said.

The police source added that the armed men acted on behalf of a "powerful faction", which he declined to name for security reasons. 

Iraq has long served as a transit point for drugs coming from Afghanistan and Iran and heading to Europe. 

In 2017, Iraq stopped issuing the death penalty for drug users and dealers. 

During Saddam Hussein's reign, drug consumption was low, with drug dealers and users facing the death penalty. 

But after his downfall, the use of drugs became widespread across the country.