The UN has warned of a rise in trafficking of the synthetic opioid tramadol across West Africa, as one official revealed it is being found in the pockets of suicide bombers.
Seizures of the drug have skyrocketed since 2013, from 300kg (660lb) to more than three tonnes a year, the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said.
In September, three million pills in UN-logoed boxes were found in Niger.
The opioid is known to be popular with Islamist militants Boko Haram.
The UNODC says the abuse of the drug – usually smuggled from Asia through the Gulf by criminal gangs – is escalating into a major health crisis in the Sahel, particularly in northern Mali and Niger, with sub-Saharan Africa’s young population potentially providing traffickers with an even larger market.
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