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Saudi Arabia: Kingdom seizes 47 million amphetamine pills in record haul

Six Syrians and two Pakistanis arrested after the pills, concealed in a flour shipment, arrived at a dry port in Riyadh
Amphetamine haul was described as the 'biggest operation of its kind to smuggle this amount of narcotics into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in one operation' (General Directorate of Narcotics Control)

Saudi officers have thwarted an attempt to smuggle 47 million amphetamine pills into the country, according to state media, who described it as the largest ever drug trafficking operation in the kingdom.

Six Syrians and two Pakistanis were arrested in a raid after the pills, concealed in a flour shipment, arrived at a dry port in the capital Riyadh and were taken to a warehouse, the Saudi Press Agency said on Wednesday. 

A spokesman for the Saudi General Directorate of Narcotics Control said it was the "biggest operation of its kind to smuggle this amount of narcotics into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in one operation". 

The report did not specify whether the pills were Captagon, the amphetamine wreaking havoc across the Middle East, nor did it say where the pills came from. 

Captagon is one of the brand names for the amphetamine-type stimulant fenethylline and is manufactured mostly in Syria and Lebanon for illegal recreational use - mostly in Saudi Arabia.

Trade in Captagon in the Middle East grew exponentially in 2021 to top $5bn, posing an increasing health and security risk to the region, a report by the New Lines Institute said in April. 

Saudi Arabia's customs body seized 119 million pills last year. 

Captagon trade in Middle East topped $5bn in 2021
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A 2021 Foreign Policy article quoted researchers as saying that "boredom and social restrictions," as well as easy availability, were fuelling the use of Captagon in the kingdom.

The drug has also been used by fighters in Syria's civil war, who say it calms their fears on the frontline.

There is a long history of fighters, including soldiers in World War Two, using amphetamines. 

On Tuesday, Waleed Bukhari, the Saudi ambassador to Beirut, told reporters that the kingdom had seized over 700 million narcotic pills that had entered its territory via Lebanon over the past eight years.

Convicted drug traffickers in Saudi Arabia are sentenced to death.

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