19 May 2007 04:18


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  • Title: [SW News] NEW YORK(AFP) - US importing greater amounts of khat
  • From: []
  • Date:  [Wednesday, May 31 5:09 AM SGT ]

Wednesday, May 31 5:09 AM SGT

US importing greater amounts of khat
NEW YORK, May 30 (AFP) -
A chewable African shrub used by Somali gunmen fighting US troops in
Mogadishu is posing concerns for US East Coast federal officials who believe
it may offer the latest cheap amphetamine high.

Khat -- also known as "qat" -- is traditionally used as a mild stimulant in
African and some Middle Eastern countries.

But US Customs Service officials believe the drug, which is more potent soon
after harvest, has started to make inroads into the illegal stimulant market
in New York and New Jersey.

"We've seen an explosion of this drug in the last 18 months. It's really
starting to catch on," said Assistant Special Agent Thomas Manifase at the US
Customs' New Jersey office.

"It used to be an ethnic thing, but it's spread and now we have college kids
using it."

The Customs Service reports that at New Jersey's Newark Airport, agents have
uncovered five tonnes of khat -- about 2.1 million dollars worth -- since
October and another 11 tonnes at John F. Kennedy Airport.

Last year, the New Jersey office discovered a total of only two tonnes of the
drug, mostly through air freight and bundles of stems packed into passenger

"We're expecting a total of about 10 to 15 tonnes to come in this year to
Newark Airport," Manifase said.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) has not seen significant amounts of the
drug filter through to the streets, according to an NYPD spokesman.

However, New York police made several arrests in the Yemen immigrant
community in Brooklyn and Staten Island early this year.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), chewing khat predated coffee
as a stimulant in East Africa and the Arabian peninsula.

"Chewed in moderation, khat alleviates fatigue and reduces appetite.
Compulsive use may result in manic behavior with grandiose delusions or in a
paranoid type of illness, sometimes accompanied by hallucinations," according
to a report on the DEA's official website.

Khat is classified as a controlled substance in the same category as cocaine
and heroin.

Sold in its stems, the drug produces a high similar to that experienced with
cocaine or the amphetamine speed, which lasts for about two hours, Agent
Manifase said.

The street value of a bundle of 20 stems is about 25 dollars.

The Customs Service said most of the drug comes from Yemen and Somalia with a
transit stop in London, where immigrants are often recruited to bring over
the drug in suitcases for fees of about 2,000 dollars.

[ News]

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