Islamic State Reportedly Using Drug Trade To Fund Operations

By McCarton Ackerman 10/22/14

Despite drugs being expressly forbidden, the Islamic militants may have seized upon trafficking routes once used by Al-Qaeda.

islamic state tank.jpg
Wiki Commons

The Islamic State has a reported $2 billion in assets from resources including oil revenue and black market trading, but a new report suggests that they’re also using the drug trade to bankroll their operations.

Spanish intelligence sources reported that European cells of jihadist groups within Spain and other countries are using drug smuggling routes to export both drug contraband and new recruits from European Union countries to Iraq and Syria. A significantly increased trade of both illegal weapons and drugs including “cocaine, heroin and hashish” has also been taking place. Most of the cocaine that has entered Europe through the Islamic State has been transported across the Atlantic Ocean and arrived in Spain.

However, the illegal trading isn’t a new practice for the Islamic State. “When you look at Al-Qaeda, which Islamic State took over from in Iraq, they used to smuggle heroin and diamonds,” said Haras Rafiq of the anti-radicalization think tank the Quilliam Foundation. “Islamic State have seized many assets since the summer, however they definitely made heavy use of illicit trade tactics before and it is probably quite difficult to stop.”

Approximately 20% of those detained in Spain under suspicion of working with Islamic State and other jihadist groups have been imprisoned for crimes including drug trafficking and document counterfeiting.

Although drug smuggling is clearly forbidden in Islam, Rafiq believes that “in times of war, they believe more is permitted to achieve their goals.” However, their actions are contradicted by publicly denouncing drug use and banning drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes in the areas which they have control of. Last month, members of the Islamic State In Iraq and Syria (ISIS) released a video of the militant group destroying a marijuana field in Syria.

Despite the best efforts of ISIS, drug use has become a problem among Iraqi youth. A UNICEF representative claimed that 10% of all children in Iraq are addicts, with social scientist Abbas Fadhil reporting that most of these users “are from ‘fragmented’ poor families or unemployed.” Many of the addicts had also dropped out of school, with drug use reportedly less common among current students.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.