BEKAA, Lebanon: Lebanese authorities continued efforts to eradicate cannabis fields in the Bekaa, east Lebanon, Tuesday as normal activity in the region remained subdued due to reports of prowling gunmen.
Two bulldozers were used in Tuesday’s operation in addition to 17 tractors after 15 tractors were sabotaged by gunmen a day earlier.
The operation, which was launched Monday, is proceeding with caution, especially following reports of armed men in the vicinity of Boudai on the outskirts of Baalbek, though no gunfire was recorded.
Speaking to reporters at the scene, Lieut. Col. Elias Zeaiter said: “We are carrying out the mission in such a manner as to destroy the banned drugs and maintain the prestige and dignity of the state.”
Zeaiter added that security forces spotted heavily armed men at a distance but that they were located in an area far from the day’s operations.
Around 35,000 dunams (8,600 acres) in the northern Bekaa are believed to be used for the cultivation of cannabis, which has long flourished in the fertile valley. Although the government banned the plant in 1992 and began annual campaigns to destroy it, farmers continue to grow the plant.
Campaigns to encourage farmers switch to other crops such as sunflowers, saffron and tobacco have been unsuccessful on a large scale, as the crops were either unsuited to the local environs or not as profitable as cannabis.