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Last Updated: Friday, 31 March 2006, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Blast as Kenya burns cocaine haul
People wearing masks as they handle the cocaine
Witnesses were not at risk, authorities said
An incinerator, where one of Africa's biggest hauls of narcotics is being burnt in Kenya, has exploded, delaying the process, police say.

No-one was hurt in the blast but it will now take 11 hours - three more than initially expected - as only one incinerator is working.

Police seized the 1.1 metric tons of cocaine worth $88m in December 2004.

The BBC's Karen Allen in Nairobi says the drugs are being destroyed to dispel fears they could be sold.

An official said the high temperatures reached by the bags of cocaine led the incinerator to malfunction.

"The exercise is going on smoothly despite" the blast, said director of public prosecutions Keriako Tobiko.

For the past few days, tests have been carried out on the cocaine seizure to prove that the sachets of drugs have remained intact.

COCAINE DESTRUCTION
Initial burning time: 8h 30mins
Heat: 900C-1,200C
Value: $88m
Weight: 1.1 metric tons
Seized: December 2004
Since the consignment was taken into police custody, speculation has been rife that some of the cocaine may have leaked out onto the international market.

The burning of more than 950 sachets of cocaine is being witnessed by foreign journalists, diplomats, members of the judiciary and suspects arrested for trafficking the shipments.

Some 200 policemen are also there to ensure security.

Cartels

Officials say the witnesses will be not affected by the smoke and fumes coming from the incinerators.

Afterwards the residue will be buried in the grounds of Kenya's Medical Research Institute.

US officials inspect the drugs
US officials were called in to inspect the drugs
All week as part of a high security operation, tests have been conducted on the drug, closely monitored by international observers and in the coming weeks, more sophisticated forensic experiments will be carried out.

The falling drug prices in the capital and a number of arrests of Kenyan Airways staff carrying cocaine into the UK had led to speculation that some of the consignment may have been sold.

Our correspondent says that despite evidence that the haul was not tampered with, some Kenyans remain sceptical about what they see as a public relations exercise.

Intelligence circles accept that drug cartels are now using Kenya to store their drugs - and that is only possible with protection from senior authorities, she says.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the cocaine haul being burnt



SEE ALSO:
Kenya police must destroy drugs
21 Mar 06 |  Africa
Drugs sackings at Kenya airline
19 Apr 02 |  Africa


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