US-backed Syria rebels seize Captagon in IS drug bust: coalition

Captagon, whose trade has flourished in the chaos of the Syrian war, is an amphetamine-type stimulant often referred to as the "jihadist" drug

Beirut (AFP) – Syrian rebels backed by the US-led coalition have seized a massive drug stash worth around $1.4 million during operations against the Islamic State group, the alliance said Monday.

Maghawir al-Thawra, a rebel faction trained by both the United States and Jordan, captured and destroyed the narcotics on May 31 in southeast Syria, the coalition said in a statement. 

The drugs were estimated to have a black market value of around $1.4 million (1.2 million euros). 

“The cache included more than 300,000 pills of Captagon, an illegal drug frequently trafficked and used by Daesh members,” it said, using the Arabic acronym for IS. 

They were seized during Maghawir al-Thawra’s operations surrounding the Al-Tanf base, which lies along Syria’s border with Jordan.

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

It is often referred to as the “jihadist” drug, as fighters who take it say it helps them stay awake for days and that it numbs their senses, allowing them to kill with abandon.

For at least two years, British and US commandos have been training and advising rebels fighting IS from Al-Tanf. 

A 55-kilometre (34 mile) de-confliction zone around the garrison is meant to serve as a buffer between US-backed forces and fighters loyal to Syria’s regime.  

The US-led coalition said the seizure of the drugs happened within the zone.

Maghawir al-Thawra announced the drug bust last week in a dramatic video published on its Facebook page. 

It included stills of dozens of plastic bags filled with yellow and white pills, which were later shown being set on fire.