Terrorism

Facing dwindling suicide bombers, ISIS uses drugs to convince less committed

By Alaa Hussain in Baghdad

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The 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' has been using Captagon, a stimulant in the amphetamine family, to encourage its fighters to carry out suicide attacks, sources tell Diyaruna.

Illegal drugs in the hands of a terrorist group can cause harm in multiple ways, Iraqi experts tell Diyaruna.

It is well known that "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) fighters have been using illegal drugs such as Captagon to combat battle fatigue, they said, as the pills induce a sense of euphoria and keep the user alert for long stretches.

But ISIS leadership also has found that the stimulant helps it to convince rank-and-file fighters to become suicide bombers, Iraqi sociologist Mohammed Abdul Hassan told Diyaruna, due to the sense of fearlessness it induces.

The group is now facing a dwindling supply of fighters who are ideologically committed to blowing themselves up, he explained.

Many have died while staging attacks in Iraq or Syria, he told Diyaruna, while others have been killed in battle.

"After the loss of members that believe in suicide operations, the group has been forced to recruit a different group of suicide bombers," he said.

It can take years of brainwashing to convince fighters to carry out these deadly missions, he said, but drugs like Captagon serve to hasten the process.

Drugs, pornography and violence

Abdul Hassan said these drugs are usually administered along with promises of sexual bliss and virgins in the afterlife if the bombers achieve martyrdom.

"Suicide bombers are exposed to pornography to elicit euphoric feelings and so they could fall under the illusion of an ideal life that they could never dream of, and help lift them out of their miserable existence," he said.

ISIS -- and other present and past terrorist groups -- have had no problem using drugs, even though they are banned under Islam, he said, as they cite a religious rule that stipulates that what is necessary overrides what is prohibited.

The group has reportedly issued a fatwa allowing the use of Captagon on the pretext that it "facilitates jihad".

ISIS-affiliated clerics are willing to override Islamic prohibitions, regardless of what they might be, as long as they serve the group's goal, Abdul Hassan said.

Captagon is banned in a number of countries, but is available on the black market in several Arab countries, including Iraq, said Ali al-Fawazi, media director of the Iraqi Ministry of Health’s repository in Dhi Qar province.

A former prescription drug that is no longer sanctioned by the medical community due to its addictive properties and is banned throughout Iraq, Captagon serves as a neurological stimulant, he said.

Users report experiencing a prolonged state of wakefulness, a reduced appetite for food and an enhanced appetite for sexual activity.

But side effects can be catastrophic, al-Fawazi told Diyaruna, and include addiction, hallucination, extreme depression and loss of inhibition.

Possession of the drug can result in immediate imprisonment.

Addiction creates revenue for ISIS

In addition to using the drug to encourage its fighters to carry out suicide attacks, ISIS has been dealing the drug in Iraq, exploiting its addictive properties to create a revenue stream for itself.

Iraqi authorities in 2015 uncovered a massive ISIS operation to smuggle in drugs from the group's northern territories to the southern Iraqi provinces.

According to a government source, security forces captured a group that was in charge of an ISIS smuggling route and confiscated 12 million narcotic pills.

The smugglers working the route towards the south and central provinces were arrested in Ain Tamr in Karbala province in possession of 12 million pills, said 1st Rusafa Court judge Omar Khalil in a statement.

"Investigations confirmed that drug dealing is a main revenue stream for ISIS," he said.

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