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ISIS Resorts to Selling Drugs in Iraq, Syria for Funding | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cannabis plants are pictured in a state-owned agricultural farm in Rovigo, about 60 km (40 miles) from Venice, September 22, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Baghdad – Following its oil revenues loss in Nineveh, ISIS is resorting to drug dealing to increase its funds, according to a top intelligence official. Drug dealing became the primary source to supply the terrorist organization with money, he added, saying that Anbar governorate is hub for this trade through a well-known dealer known as “Pablo Escobar of Iraq”.

The source warns that Anbar could be in danger of falling under ISIS control once again amid the security chaos and the influence drugs now have within security forces.

Armed groups expert Hisham al-Hashimi confirms the intelligence source’s information about drug dealing, adding that the terrorist organization is planting cannabis in different areas of Iraq.

Hashimi told Asharq Al-Awsat that ISIS is taking advantage of people’s lack of knowledge about cannabis and is selling it based on the Fatwa that allows selling poison to disbelievers.

The security expert stated that security forces raid every now and then on cannabis planting farms, but sometimes it is difficult to detect this plant because of its nature which resembles the alfalfa plant.

It is believed that drug planting was transported to the Iraqi Sunni areas by Afghani militants in al-Qaeda and ISIS, whereas Iranian taught Shi’ites in the south.

The source stated that the authorities and media are not giving a dangerous case – such as ISIS drug dealing – the attention it needs.

He gave an example of the news reports about the 16 cattle traders who were kidnapped couple of months ago, where they wanted to portray it as a sectarian case knowing that a number of the kidnapped are Shi’ites. In reality, the source confirms that the group is active in drug dealing and was kidnapped by a competing group.

Drug dealing is one of ISIS’ most reliable funding means, according to the source.

He added that it is active on two trade routes. The first is used by Qaeda starting from Afghanistan, through Pakistan and Iran, all the way to Iraq and Syria, in addition to Gulf countries. Whereas the second is used by ISIS, making sure it doesn’t interfere with that of Qaeda, and passes through Iraq, Syria, Turkey and then to Europe. He also said that there is a reverse route from Ramadi to al-Qaem under ISIS control.

According to the source, it is easy for drug dealers and smugglers to move around areas under ISIS control in Iraq and Syria. He added that a great drug dealer is in Anbar and considered the main sponsor for drugs in the governorate. The dealer was arrested a while back, but later released.

He is usually referred to as “Pablo Escobar of Iraq” in reference to the famous Colombian drug lord.

Drug dealers pay millions of dollars for officials in security institutions to allow them to move freely and silence those calling for their imprisonment, according to the source.

Yet, the source stated, that problem is that the active intelligence in Anbar are aware of the drug trade in the city, but no one dares to deal with the people involved in those issues because of their leverage and power.