The past couple of weeks I discussed the convenient nuptials between Islamist jihadists and drug dealers in South America. This week I submit to you the catastrophic and tragic consequences and off spring of that marriage. It is producing a generation of drug addicted youth that will be paying the bill for this generations passivity
“The Fuel of Fury”
“Sometimes people with the worst pasts create the best futures.”
From a recent Rayat al-Tawheed (ISIS) Facebook recruiting ad
“There was no fear anymore, after I took Captagon.” ISIS fighter
“If we want to prepare for the way we may be attacked next, we have to start considering all the ways we haven’t been attacked yet, as well as the ones we know.” Jean-Louis Bruguière
This week’s issue of MTMTE covers part three of our four part series on the nexus of global narcotics trade and Islamist terrorism. In parts one and two the “marriage of convenience” between the global narcotics trade and Islamist terrorism was discussed. We saw how the narcotics industry has become a natural and willing partner with Islamist terrorism, even though ideologically they could not be farther apart. We looked at how the drug trade provides a much needed source of cash to fund Islamist violent operations. We also saw that the Islamist jihadist community provides a unique source of products, weaponry, training and global networks for drug cartels to make more money than most of us could ever imagine.
There is an even darker side of the drug/Islamist nexus. In this issue I will attempt to unpack what can only be considered a confusing subject, regarding the persistent use of drugs by Islamist jihadists and how these drugs are used to fuel the fury of violent extremism.
In the last week of this series on drugs and terrorism, I plan to conclude with a discussion on how the nexus of global drug trade and consumption directly contributes to the violence and fear in our families and communities.
How does the presumed piety of Islam and wanton drug abuse among those who claim to be the foot soldiers of Islam reconcile both ideologically and practically? There are a host of theories by both subject matter experts and pundits. This is such a volatile issue in our world today. How can it be reconciled?
One way that many scholars and government officials are attempting to deal with the gross contradiction of ideology and violent extremism is by denying its connection with true Islam. There are many who would say that ISIS, al Qaeda and Boko Haram are malicious misinterpretations of Qur’anic teachings and that these violent extremist interpretations exclude them from the dar al-Islam (Islamic world.) The onslaught of Islamic rhetoric is pervasive. It has become vogue to claim that anything or anyone that places Islamist violence within the camp of Islam is islamophobic. “Islamophobic” is rapidly becoming an accepted term equating anything negative about Islam as racist. This is a dangerous and destructive pathway of thought that is occurring in Western countries. There must of course, be protections against the blatant persecution of Muslims for simply being Muslim, but the route that is being created refuses to allow constructive dialogue concerning the ideological conflicts that are emerging between Middle Eastern values, norms and culture, along with those of Western nations. The assumption is that the West should bend to understand these cultures, while few attempts are being made to help Islamic cultural values integrate with Western cultural communities.
Are Islamist jihadists abusing drugs? How do Islamist jihadist foot soldiers justify the use of psycho-altering drugs to commit terrorist attacks against civilians and women and children?
Are they using drugs?
On December 19, 2016 Anis Amri drove a stolen lorry into a Christmas market in Berlin, leaving twelve dead and dozens more injured. He fled the scene and traveled across Western Europe despite an international manhunt. Four days after the attack, he was shot dead by Italian police on the outskirts of Milan during a routine ID check. He drew a weapon from his backpack and shot one of the Italian officers before being killed. The “Islamic State” claimed responsibility for the Berlin attack, releasing a video in which Amri pledged allegiance to the militant group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. An autopsy of the Tunisian suspected terrorist, Anis Amri‘s body found traces of habitual consumption of cocaine and cannabis, reported Italy’s ANSA news agency.
On the evening of November 13th 2015, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks, consisting of mass shootings, suicide bombings, and the taking of hostages occurred in Paris, France (Hirsch et al. 2015). The attacks were the deadliest in France since World War II and the deadliest in the European Union since the Madrid train bombings in 2004 (Lynch 2015). The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attacks (CNN 2015). French President, François Hollande said that the attack was an act of war by ISIL (Reuters 2015). Eyewitnesses have described how some of the Bataclan killers were “zombie like” during the siege (‘Zombie-like’ 2015). Syringes thought to have been used by the gang before the Paris attacks were found inside hotel rooms. The French police are investigating whether the ISIL gang launched their killing spree under the influence of a psychoactive drug, dubbed a “terror potion” by some commentators, which could explain the extreme barbarity of the ISIL operatives (Liban 2015). The “terror potion” may be Captagon counterfeit tablets (CCT). Production of CCT has been increasing in recent years, particularly in areas such as Syria where ISIS is active. According to the World Customs Organization (WCO), the amount of Captagon seized has increased from 4 tons in 2012 to more than 11 tons in 2013 (World Customs Organization 2013).
Seifeddine Rezgui, “the terrorist who shot and killed 38 people at a beach in Tunisia in the summer of 2015, took CCT before carrying out his shootings. According to a testimony during the shooting, he was smiling and laughing whilst he committed the massacre” (Panenka et al. 2013).
Why are they targeting with drugs? – See additional reading at this link. It is a short discussion of the redemptive narrative.
What drugs are they taking?
For many individuals and terrorist groups the drug of choice is one called, Capatagon—a pharmaceutical cousin of the attention deficit/hyperactivity drug (ADHD), Adderall. Captagon is the trademark name for the stimulant, fenethylline which contains amphetamine and also makes up 75% of the composition of Adderall (or Ritalin). On the surface, those competing actors are fueled by an overlapping mixture of ideologies and political agendas; just below it, experts suspect they’re powered by something else: Captagon.
Captagon, this tiny, highly addictive pill is produced in Syria and is widely available across the Middle East. It’s illegal sale funnels hundreds of millions of dollars back into the war-torn country’s black-market economy each year, likely giving militias access to new arms and to fighters the ability to keep the conflict boiling, according to the Guardian.
Captagon quickly produces a euphoric intensity in users, allowing Syria’s fighters to stay up for days, killing with a numb, reckless abandon. “You can’t sleep or even close your eyes, forget about it,” said a Lebanese user, one of three who appeared on camera without their names for a BBC Arabic documentary that aired in September. “And whatever you take to stop it, nothing can stop it.”
“Why wouldn’t attackers do something forbidden by their religious practice — take drugs or anything else — that could help them achieve what they consider the most important goal: their plot in striking a blow for Allah?” “We’re talking about people who think they’re killing for Allah and who are certain they’ll attain paradise by slaying innocent people. The most powerful drug they could ever find is already in their head before the attack starts,” says Jacquard.
Our culture is becoming increasingly dependent and obsessed with using drugs to solve many of our problems. We often make decisions concerning the drugs without concern for the side-effects or consequences. For example, “at least 35 school shootings and/or school-related acts of violence have been committed by those taking or withdrawing frompsychiatric drugs resulting in 169 wounded and 79 killed.” Look at that statistic again. One hundred sixty nine students and teachers were wounded. Seventy nine were killed. One sector of our society would tell us that guns are the problem. Perhaps however, we ought to be looking harder at the psychotropic drug industry including the side-effects which Adderall and/or Ritalin have on our youth.
We need a full court press on the abuse of drugs, especially when it comes to an educational process. Fifty years ago, 42.4 percent of U.S. adults smoked. Since then, that figure has declined by more than half, reaching a record low of 17.8 percent in 2014. Educating our youth on the use of drugs must be a priority.
The point of this article is that the nexus of drugs and Islamist terrorism is real, not only in its trafficking, but also in its consumption. Drugs are fueling the fury of violent extremist attacks, making them even more violent than they would be under other circumstances. Would-be terrorists are willingly taking psychotropic drugs to stimulate them to new heights of violence. They are also being duped into believing that taking a pill will help them focus in battle. Either way certain drugs are being used to heighten the effects of the fury that already exists and to stimulate fighters to have more capacity to carry out acts with increasing levels of violence and anger.
According to a researcher of terrorist organizations,journalist, Mohammed Nimr, there are four common similarities which make suicide bombers distinct; confusion, fear and redness of the eyes, (drug abuse to the point that they are not affected by any outside factors, including poor academic records or weak family backgrounds.) The bombers all typically wear loose baggy clothes as well, to make it easier to hide explosive belts and weapons.
Each of the above variables can produce visible character traits. Once again, practicing situational awareness is critical. Paying attention to these commonalities in violent extremists will go a long way in protecting you and your family from possible terrorist attacks. Staying at home is not the solution. The solution is to educate yourself about the places where you will be spending time, to pay attention to the things going on around you and to not be afraid or hesitant to remove yourself from an area when your intuition tells you that it could be unsafe. Here is a simple model for you and your family to follow in order to be situationally aware.
Prepare before you go, by becoming knowledgeable of what is and will be happening where you are going to be spending time.
Pray for safety for yourself and for all those around you.
Pay Attention by being ready to evacuate the area if you believe something dangerous could be occurring.