Lebanon army swoops on suspected drug baron

Eight people killed as army unit raids house of Ali Zayd Ismail, wanted on several counts of drug trafficking in Bekaa Valley.

BEIRUT - Eight people were killed including a suspected drug trafficking baron in an army raid on his home in eastern Lebanon on Monday, the armed forces said.

"An army unit raided the house of Ali Zayd Ismail, wanted on several counts of drug trafficking in the area of Al-Hamudiya-Brital," in the Bekaa Valley, which borders Syria, the army said.

"The unit was shot at... forcing the force's members to retaliate, which led to the killing of eight gunmen," it said in a statement.

The army said it detained a further 41 people -- 16 Lebanese and 25 Syrians -- and seized weapons and drugs.

It said Ismail, a notorious figure, was among those killed.

In April, the army seized 20 kilogrammes (44 pounds) of Captagon from an abandoned house they said Ismail was using in Brital.

Captagon is classified by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime as an "amphetamine-type stimulant" and usually blends amphetamines, caffeine and other substances.

And in December, the army seized 800 kilogrammes of cannabis from Ismail's home.

Consuming, growing and selling marijuana are all illegal in Lebanon.

But in the Bekaa Valley, long marginalised by the central government, its widespread production has become a multi-million-dollar industry.

The Lebanese parliament is soon to review legislation to legalise medicinal marijuana, its speaker Nabih Berri said last week.

The move comes after a consulting firm, charged with setting a vision to kickstart the Lebanese economy, suggested legalising and regularising the production and sale of marijuana.