Soldiers ARE HELD OVER GUNS-FOR-COKE

Soldiers ARE HELD OVER GUNS-FOR-COKE

Sep 25 2006

Iraq regiment in drugs probe

By Emily Nash

BRITISH soldiers have allegedly been caught smuggling guns out of Iraq to trade for cocaine and cash.

Members of the 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment are the focus of a criminal investigation by the Royal Military Police into a “guns for cocaine” exchange.

The RMP are thought to have evidence that stolen weapons are being used to pay for drugs.

One of the soldiers arrested is alleged to have bought cocaine in return for handguns such as Glock pistols, smuggled from Iraq to Germany, at least six times.

A security source said that, in one deal, guns were exchanged for about 50 grams of the drug with a street value of £2500.

The cocaine was then allegedly sold on to other British soldiers serving in Iraq.

It is not clear if the weapons were Army-issue or had been seized from Iraqi insurgents. The RMP are examining who the guns went to and why and there are fears the soldiers may have connections to organised crime gangs in Germany.

The battalion, who finished a tour of duty in southern Iraq last year, are now based in Warminster, Wiltshire, but also have a base at Fallingbostel, near Hanover, Germany.

The Army are facing a growing trend for drug abuse, with 1020 personnel testing positive last year.

These included 520 cases involving clblank A drugs – a 50 per cent increase in just five years.

Earlier this year, it emerged that more than half the members of a regiment involved in the first Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal were regular drug users.

A former fusilier from the 1st Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers told RMP investigators that 75 men in the company, including an officer and a warrant officer, regularly took cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana.

He said up to 20 were so addicted they suffered withdrawal symptoms.

An MoD spokesman confirmed the RMP investigation was being carried out but would not comment further.

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