Italy seizes 14 tons of amphetamines allegedly produced by Islamic State

Amphetamine pills seized in southern Italy
This image taken from a video shows amphetamine pills seized at the Salerno harbor, in southern Italy.
(Guardia di Finanza)

Italian police have seized 14 tons of amphetamines allegedly produced in Syria by Islamic State to fund extremist activities and destined for Europe’s illegal drug market.

Customs Police Col. Domenico Napolitano on Wednesday called the discovery in the southern port of Salerno the biggest amphetamine seizure ever made worldwide. Authorities found three shipping containers crammed with about 85 million pills.

Napolitano said on Italian state radio that investigators believe the drug’s production provides Islamic State with vital revenue for its militant activities. Investigators theorize that amphetamine production in Europe was hampered by the coronavirus lockdown, and so drug traffickers might have turned to Syria-based producers to fill the market.


The amphetamines were labeled captagon, the street name for a drug whose chemical base is fenethylline.

Police say they’re investigating whether Naples-based Camorra organized crime clans might have ordered the huge shipment for international sale, because two weeks earlier, a much smaller shipment of the drug was also seized in Salerno’s port in a shipment of clothing.

Salerno is about 30 miles south of Naples in the Campania region, the historic base of the Camorra. Drug trafficking is one of the syndicate’s revenue-makers.

It could have been a wild boar rooting in the underbrush. Or perhaps a bird.

Oct. 7, 2019

In a statement, customs police noted that captagon is reputed to be used by Islamic State combatants to “inhibit fear and pain.”

The 14 tons of amphetamines would have raked in about $1.15 billion in street sales had they ultimately made it to consumers, customs police said.


Police used electric saws to cut through 6.5-foot-tall cylinders, made thick enough to try to elude customs’ scanning devices, to remove the pills from the hollow centers.