With candor you’re unlikely to find from a traditional news outlet, Joakim Medin reports from Kobane: Streets and strategic buildings have been taken over by slow street fighting, which culminated in the important December 22 recapturing of Kobane’s Cultural Center. A few hours earlier, the happy fighters of this YPG unit had managed to make their own successful early morning attack against a house on the southern front, where an IS leader named Emir Abu Zahra was known to reside. They told me that in the firefight he was shot and killed.
“They also found a few things of his, which they took with them,” Dayan told me.
A slightly older fighter who speaks German came back into the room where we drank tea and perused the findings. Among them was a very thick, professional Dell laptop — one of those rugged, military-style Latitude XFRs, which has a ballistic armor protection system and is sold in stores for a few thousand dollars. They are meant to be used in demanding environments by oil workers, the police, and the army. It’s an expensive piece of equipment, but something you can probably easily pick up after having robbed the central bank of Mosul.
There’s also a traditional looking Middle Eastern dagger among the possessions they said they took from the now dead IS leader. Surprisingly, it’s not an authentic one, but a tacky copy with an Egyptian sphinx emblazoned on the case, and a horned goat head on the shaft. There are no blood traces on the blade.
And finally, sitting in front of me, is a large, transparent plastic bag filled with white powder. The YPG fighters told me they are not sure what this could be. So I dipped my index finger into it, and sure enough, it’s a big bag of cocaine. I must admit, I am familiar with the taste of the drug.
“Cocaine? What is that?” they ask.
The other guys have no knowledge of this drug, or how people use it. It’s nothing they have heard of or encountered before. But Dayan suggests that the powder is something Abu Zahra was distributing in smaller portions to his fighters.
There have been persistent rumors and accusations of drug use in the ranks of Islamic State fighters. Leaders in the group have been said to drug their militants to give them greater courage as they go into battle. This has led to both successful, but also reckless and ineffective suicide attacks by fighters who can easily be shot down. Certain IS militants have been described as “drug-crazed,” and Kurds report having found mysterious pills, capsules, and syringes on living and dead IS fighters. [Continue reading…]