A major drug bust in the Philippines on Thursday highlighted the dependence of the Islamic State-linked Maute terrorist group upon income from the drug trade. A Maute suspect named Amrodin Alan Bantog was arrested with over $100,000 worth of shabu, which is the Philippine term for methamphetamines.
The Philippine Star quoted local officials who described Bantog as “one of the top ten large-scale peddlers of shabu) in the city of Wao. The officials said Bantog is a member of the Maute organization and remits a portion of his earnings from drug sales to its leadership. In return for a cut of the profits, Maute provides protection for drug dealers in the area it controls.
Some Maute fighters who recently surrendered to Philippine security forces said they joined the group largely because there was so much money in the drug trade. Philippine forces recently intensified their efforts to stamp out Maute on Mindanao as a more presentable Islamist rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, prepares to take control of a semi-autonomous region covering much of the island.
The shabu trade has long been a target of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war. The Islamic State’s participation in the trade is also a long-standing tradition. When the Philippine military recaptured the city of Marawi from ISIS and Maute, they found millions of dollars’ worth of meth stashed across the city.