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Philippines military says seizes drugs worth millions of dollars in besieged city
June 19, 2017 / 6:42 AM / 6 months ago

Philippines military says seizes drugs worth millions of dollars in besieged city

MARAWI CITY, Philippines (Reuters) - The Philippine military found methamphetamine worth between $2 million to $5 million while clearing rebel positions in besieged Marawi City, officials said on Monday, boosting suspicions Islamist militants are being funded by the narcotics trade.

Government forces display 11kg of high grade Methamphetamine Hydrochloride "Shabu", worth 110 to 250 million pesos ($2.2 to 5 million USD) and the ISIS flag recovered by troops from the Maute group in a conflict area in Marawi City, Philippines June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

The 11 bags of shabu, the local name for methamphetamine, were recovered on Sunday along with four assault rifles in the kitchen of a two-storey concrete house believed to be occupied by fighters from the Maute militant group.

“This strengthens our findings that these terrorists are using illegal drugs,” Major-General Carlito Galvez, military commander of western Mindanao, said in a statement.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who launched a ruthless ‘war on drugs’ after coming to power a year ago, has said the Marawi fighters are being financed by drug lords in Mindanao, an island the size of South Korea that has suffered for decades from banditry and insurgencies.

Fighting in Marawi City erupted on May 23 after a bungled raid by security forces on a Maute hideout, with gunmen owing allegiance to Islamic State seizing bridges and buildings and taking hostages.

Damaged buildings and houses are seen as government forces continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group, who was taken over large parts of the Marawi City, Philippines June 18, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

Duterte responded by declaring martial law in Mindanao.

The army said nearly 350 people, including 257 militants, 62 soldiers and 26 civilians, have been killed in four weeks of fighting.

The fighters were prepared for a long siege of Marawi, stockpiling arms and food in tunnels, basements, mosques and madrasas, or Islamic religious schools, military officials have said.

Bundles of banknotes and cheques worth about $1.6 million were also discovered earlier this month in an abandoned rebel position.

Jo-Ar Herrera, a military spokesman, told a media briefing the militants were also using commercial drones to monitor troop movements.

Writing by Karen Lema; Editing by Michael Perry

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