Philippines military seizes drugs worth millions

Government forces display 11kg worth 110 to 250 million pesos ($2.2 to 5 million USD) of high grade Methamphetamine Hydrochloride "Shabu" and the ISIS flag recovered by troops from the Maute group in a conflict area in Marawi City, Philippines June 19, 20 Photo: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco

MARAWI CITY - The Philippine military found methamphetamine worth between $2-million (R26-million) and $5-million (R65-million) while clearing rebel positions in besieged Marawi City, officials said on Monday.

This boosted suspicions that Islamist militants were being funded by the drugs 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, military commander of western Mindanao, said in a statement.

READ: Foreign militants in deadly Philippine urban battle: govt

President Rodrigo Duterte, who launched a ruthless 'war on drugs' after coming to power a year ago, had said the Marawi fighters were being financed by drug lords in Mindanao, an island the size of South Korea that 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.

Duterte responded by declaring martial law in Mindanao.

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

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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 said.

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


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