Afghan land being used to grow opium is cut by 21 per cent

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But good rains after years of drought led to bumper harvests, so the opium yield dropped by just 2 per cent to 4,100 tons, Antonio Maria Costa, the director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said yesterday. Last year's yield was 4,200 tons. The amount of land used dropped from 323,570 acres last year to 256,880 this year.

Mr Costa said Afghanistan supplies 87 per cent of the world's opium and heroin and predicted that it would take 20 years to eradicate. He added that some provincial governors were involved in the drug trade and should be removed.

* The US-led coalition and Afghan forces killed a suspected Taliban commander and three militants, officials said yesterday. Payenda Mohammed, who was thought to have led about 150 rebels, was killed in Kandahar province on Wednesday.