Iran says a shootout with drug smugglers in an eastern desert region has left 11 policemen dead. The state IRNA news agency says gunfire erupted when police stopped a smugglers' convoy on Friday near the town of Birjand, about 500 miles (800 kilometers) southeast of Tehran. The report late Saturday says seven policemen died at the site of the shootout while four died later of their injuries. Clashes between police and smugglers are common in the area, which is a known route for narcotics destined for Arab countries in the Persian Gulf.
Iran lies on a drug smuggling track stretching from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Europe. Authorities confiscate hundreds of tons of narcotics, mostly opium, every year.