Coalition airstrikes are taking their toll on the Islamic State (I.S) group's revenue streams, yet the US said today that the terrorist organisation still earns "several million" dollars per week.
I.S (also referred to as ISIL) has raised a “significant amount” of money from selling oil plundered from fields in Syria and Iraq argued David S. Cohen, the under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the US Department of the Treasury.
He described the group as “the best-funded terrorist organization we have confronted.”
However, in a speech to the House Committee on Financial Services, Cohen argued that coalition airstrikes were “successfully impairing ISIL’s ability to sell oil, and so its daily oil revenue has fallen”.
Cohen claimed that until recently the group had earned “approximately $1m a day from oil and refined product sales."
Alongside oil, which is said to be smuggled out of the country through a “long-standing and deeply rooted black market connecting traders in and around the area”, I.S raises funds through ransom fees, extortion and other criminal activities such as bank robbing.
I.S have taken “at least” $20m from ransom payments for captured journalists and other hostages as well as “several million” dollars per month through a “sophisticated extortion racket”, argued Cohen.
In Iraq and Syria, ISIL extracts payments at gunpoint from those who pass through, conduct business in, or simply seek to live in the territory where it operates.We’ve also seen reports that when customers make cash withdrawals from local banks where ISIL operates, ISIL has demanded as much as 10 per cent of the value.
I.S “does not currently rely heavily on wealthy supporters”, said Cohen, but he did claim the Treasury had identified and sanctioned a financial facilitator who arranged for a $2m donation from the Gulf.
In order to combat and diminish I.S’ financial strength, Cohen outlined three key areas of focus for the US:
First, we are working to disrupt ISIL’s revenue streams in order to deny it money in the first place.Second, we aim to limit what ISIL can do with the funds it collects by restricting its access to the international financial system.And finally, we will continue to impose sanctions on ISIL’s senior leadership and financial facilitators to disrupt their ability to operate.
Read the full transcript of Cohen’s speech here.