by Saleh Al Shaibany
Muscat:¬†Foreign drug dealers now use Duqm as a major narcotics drop point, making it easy for local agents to collect the illegal substances and distribute the same in towns across the Sultanate, informed sources say.
Dealers used to target the northern governorate of Musandam to drop their deadly consignments but the recent tight police patrolling in the area made it difficult for them to carry on.
The Musandam Peninsula also faces the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway channel shared by both Oman and Iran. Smugglers of narcotic substances now avoid the Strait because it is heavily patrolled by international coastguards, including the European Union and the US marines, as part of global efforts to deter Somali pirates.
“Musandam was a prime target because of its proximity to Iran and Afghanistan. Now, international dealers have chosen a soft target in Duqm because the police patrol there is less stringent,” the source told the Times of Oman.
The Royal Oman Police’s (ROP) special narcotics squad has arrested over 60 drug dealers and distributors in the last 12 months. The source also said that speed boats pick up the drugs in the international water near Duqm from fishing trawlers operated by an international ring.
“The speed boats make their way to the beach to the waiting distributors. These distributors load the stuff in their cars and distribute to dealers in all major towns in the country. It is a very organised network that starts from abroad and ends right at the doorsteps of an addict in our streets,” the source said. The government has beefed up screening at the airports and all its borders, and drug smugglers have stopped using these routes.
However, the sea route has been a major challenge as far as patrolling is concerned.
Oman has the longest shoreline in the Gulf, which stretches for 1,700km. According to the EU statistics, international water near Oman’s territory is one of the busiest in the world because of oil exports from other Gulf countries.
The ROP has already warned parents to remain vigilant about their children because schools are now being targeted by drug peddlers. Students addicted to drugs later turn towards contraband carriers and start supplying drugs to the student community.
There are no statistics on how many people are addicted or arrested in the past five years to study whether drug use is on the rise or not. Such figures, according to experts, will help combat the problem better.
“The drug problem will not go away. We need to do a research to see how many people are addicted, their age group, financial background and education status. This will help us plan a strategy to combat this menace,” Harith Al Harthy, a volunteer at the Hayatt Association, a body that helps drug addicts, said.