Girl, 13, charged with heroin smuggling

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A girl aged 13 has been charged with smuggling heroin worth almost £1m into the United Kingdom.

The child, believed to be one of the youngest charged with smuggling in Britain, was arrested at Manchester airport after stepping off the flight from Islamabad, Pakistan, at 4pm on Monday.

Customs officers recovered 13kg of heroin with a street value of £910,000 from a hidden compartment of a suitcase.

The girl, who was travelling alone on a Pakistani International Airlines (PIA) flight, has been bailed into the care of social services in Bradford and will appear before Manchester magistrates tomorrow.

She is believed to come from Bradford. One eyewitness said she looked "more like a young woman than a girl".

Research by the University of Central Lancashire showed last year that children as young as 13 were being bought mountain bikes as rewards for ferrying drugs from Pakistan into west Yorkshire's former mill districts such as Bradford, Halifax and Kirklees.

Flights from Pakistan to Manchester airport are a known supply route and typically heroin is shuttled by road from Manchester to Bradford, where the trade is centred, then worked back down the M62 trans-Pennine corridor. The small east Lancashire mill towns of Colne and Nelson have also had desperate addiction problems.

Kamlesh Patel, director of the university's ethnicity and health unit, said mules were carrying 5kg packages in suitcases or strapped to their bodies for Pakistani gangs adopting the "little but often" principle of smuggling as they challenge the stranglehold in the north of Turkish and Turkish-Cypriot rivals, who generally use lorries.