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9 tonnes of cannabis, gang in fatigues

Siliguri, Jan. 30: Nine armed men in army fatigues and allegedly transporting nine tonnes of cannabis from Nagaland to Calcutta were arrested near Siliguri this morning, police said.

The arrests were made in a joint operation by the Siliguri metropolitan police and the directorate of revenue intelligence. One truck and one four-wheeler were stopped at Fulbari, 8km from Siliguri town. The police said the cannabis was worth Rs 5 crore.

Jag Mohan, the commissioner of police, Siliguri, said the contraband was being brought in a truck from Nagaland and was bound for Calcutta. The vehicles were stopped after a tip-off. “Police and the DRI jointly conducted a raid in the Fulbari area early this morning and seized a truck loaded with nine tonnes of ganja. We have also arrested nine men wearing fake army uniforms. The seized items weigh nine tonnes and are valued at Rs 5 crore,” the commissioner told journalists here.

“During the operation, two air rifles, a country-made AK-47, an MP-5 gun, four improvised pistols, two daggers, 150 live cartridges, a packet of pellets, bogus army identity cards and 15 mobile phones were recovered from them,” he said.

Asked if any militant outfit had a role in the smuggling, Jag Mohan said: “We haven’t found the involvement of any militant group in the haul so far.”

A police source said some of the arrested men were travelling in a Maruti Gypsy that was moving in front of the truck. “The men dressed in fake army fatigues were in a Maruti Gypsy as if they were escorting the truck. Some others in military garb were on the truck. Initial interrogation of the arrested men suggests they are from Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar,” said the source.

Sources in the police and the DRI said today’s haul was the biggest in the region in the recent past.

All the nine were arrested under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, and produced in the court of additional district judge in Jalpaiguri that deals with such cases.

While five of them were remanded in the DRI custody for three days, others were sent to jail for 14 days.