Istanbul (AFP) – The Turkish authorities have seized close to the Syrian border a record haul of almost 11 million pills of the synthetic stimulant drug captagon which is believed to play a crucial part in Syria’s civil war, reports said Friday.
Anti-narcotics police confiscated over 10.9 million pills weighing almost two tonnes in two separate raids in the Hatay region on the border with Syria this week, the official Anatolia news agency and Hurriyet daily quoted the interior ministry as saying.
Captagon, based on the amphetamine phenethylline (also spelt Fenethylline), a synthetic stimulant, is a hugely popular drug in the Middle East and produced in Syria.
As for why Syria became a hub for manufacturing Captagon in the first place, it may have to do with the fact that, before the war, Syria had a vast pharmaceutical industry. With dozens of factories, Syria was the second-largest supplier of pharmaceuticals in the region. It’s not hard to imagine enterprising criminal gangs finding a way to divert some of the country’s supplies of drug precursor chemicals and pill pressing equipment.
It has been repeatedly dubbed as the drug fuelling Syria’s civil war since its production provides income for the warring factions and also keeps fighters awake and energized over long periods.
“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.”
“I felt like I own the world high,” another user said. “Like I have power nobody has. A really nice feeling.”
“There was no fear anymore after I took Captagon,” a third man added.
Cheap and easy to produce using legal materials, the drug can be purchased for less than $20 a tablet and is popular among those Syrian fighters who don’t follow strict interpretations of Islamic law, according to the Guardian.
One secular ex-Syrian fighter who spoke to the BBC said the drug is tailor-made for the battlefield because of its ability to give soldiers superhuman energy and courage:
“So the brigade leader came and told us, ‘this pill gives you energy, try it,’ ” he said. “So we took it the first time. We felt physically fit. And if there were 10 people in front of you, you could catch them and kill them. You’re awake all the time. You don’t have any problems, you don’t even think about sleeping, you don’t think to leave the checkpoint. It gives you great courage and power. If the leader told you to go break into a military barracks, I will break in with a brave heart and without any feeling of fear at all — you’re not even tired.”
Large quantities of the drug are also illegally smuggled abroad, with Saudi Arabia a major market where the authorities repeatedly report seizures.
In a single raid last year, police in Dubai seized 17 million tablets. At $10 a pill — a rough estimate, but one that is widely cited by law enforcement officials and drug treatment specialists alike — this amounts to a total street value trade of around $170 million.
The reports said that 7.3 million captagon pills were seized in one raid and were set to be shipped to Gulf countries by sea hidden in 1,300 oil filters.
Another 3.6 million pills were seized in a depot, the reports added.
One Syrian citizen and two Turkish nationals have been detained on suspicion of trying to organize the smuggling, the reports said.
Captagon is classified by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime as an “amphetamine type stimulant” and usually blends amphetamine, caffeine and other substances.
On Oct. 26, Lebanese police arrested Saudi prince Abdel Mohsen Bin Walid Bin Abdulaziz at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport for allegedly trying to smuggle 40 suitcases full of Captagon (along with some cocaine) to Riyadh aboard a private jet.
Captagon is a tiny, but highly addictive pill. It’s produced in Syria. It’s sale funnels millions of dollars back to the black-market in the Middle East providing new arms and weapons to psychopath Muslim fighters.
Earlier this week, when the Bataclan venue got hit with the attack, survivors described the killers as being in a “zombie-like” state. My bet is they were all doped up with Captagon.
It seems to me if we can help stop the drug manufacturing of Captagon, we will stop the “crazed” fighters and cut off funds. I don’t know about you, but I think we should use our wonderful technology to destroy the factories that are manufacturing this crazed drug that supports the crazy fighters in Syria. But wait, where’s Obama on the war on drugs?
Written by Nancy Hayes
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