World

Drugs worth millions of dollars seized in Marawi

MARAWI CITY: The Philippine military found methamphetamine worth between US$2 million (S$2.77 million) and US$5 million while clearing rebel positions in besieged Marawi City, officials said on Monday, boosting suspicions that Islamist militants are being funded by the narcotics trade.

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 said in a statement.

President Rodrigo Duterte 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 the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria seizing bridges and buildings and taking hostages.

Mr Duterte responded by declaring martial law in Mindanao. 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, stockpiling arms and food in tunnels, basements and mosques, officials said. Banknotes and cheques worth US$1.6 million were also found earlier this month in an abandoned rebel position. - REUTERS

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