Friday, April 19, 2019

Cash-rich Islamic State may have stashed up to $300 million in hopes of fighting on, by Yigal Chazan

Islamic State once controlled a fortune of about $6 billion. Now its territory has been destroyed, the terrorist group may be down to its last $300 million.

IS officials no longer have the liabilities of operating a nascent "state". So they have more flexibility with their remaining cash.
The group's leaders may have stored the money in cash hideouts. They are also thought to have invested it in legitimate businesses like hotels, real estate companies, farms, and car dealerships in the Middle East.

Islamic State (IS) has amassed a war chest of as much as several hundred million pounds and continues to exploit a string of revenue streams that are likely to enable the group to finance a covert network in Iraq, Syria and further afield despite the complete physical collapse of its so-called caliphate.

IS's reserves of cash are a fraction of what they were at the height of its power in 2015, when the jihadists' control of almost half of Iraq and Syria enabled them to accrue around $6 billion, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Other sources have said their money was derived through taxation, extortion, theft and oil smuggling. Yet the sums now believed to be at the group's disposal mean it will remain a well-funded terrorist organisation for some time to come.

Following the fall of IS's last stronghold in eastern Syria, international efforts to squeeze its sources of finance will be stepped up in order to thwart any attempt by the group to support and mobilise cells in the region - where it can reportedly call on 14,000 to 18,000 militants, according to a report from VOA citing U.N. counterterrorism chief Vladimir Voronkov.

Some of these loyalists are suspected of being behind recent lethal attacks that left 10 dead in the vicinity of Mosul and Kirkuk. In February, the Pentagon's internal watchdog agency warned that IS was already regrouping in Iraq, and was capable of mounting a resurgence in Syria within 6 to 12 months, unless it came under sustained pressure.