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Plane Crashes on Anti-Drug Mission

The anti-drug campaign in Zhangjiakou, North China's Hebei Province, remains suspended following a plane crash on a mission on Friday morning, which killed five people.

The post-accident issues are still being handled and the future of the campaign remains under discussion, sources from Department of Public Security of Hebei Province said Sunday.

The plane crashed while on a mission to locate the possible areas of poppy planting in Fengning Manchu Autonomous County of Zhangjiakou, the source said.

The tragedy occurred when the rear of the light plane hit high-voltage wires between two local mountains, causing a fire on the plane, the source said.

The plane, reportedly borrowed from the local air force, was destroyed when it crashed on farmland. The victims were four anti-drug police officers and the plane's pilot.

According to the source, Zhangjiakou and neighbouring Chengde are among the areas where poppies are planted in the province, the source said.

The plane's mission was a part of the province's campaign to root out poppies, which are the major source of drug products in the province, she said.

The season is the time that poppies blossom, so it is easy to recognize the drug source by identifying the poppies.

"Since local areas are mountainous, the anti-drug police have to use light aircraft to comb the mountains," the source said.

According to local farmers, anti-drug police used to search for possible poppy planting in the gullies by flying a light plane.

"Nobody dares to plant poppies in my village after some were fined and even detained for secretly planting the flowers years ago," Beijing News quoted a local farmer as saying.

Starting this month, the nation will launch a five-month campaign to fight illegal drug trafficking, with eradication of the source of drugs being part of the campaign.

(China Daily August 2, 2004)

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