Washington: The Islamic State has become the world's wealthiest terror group, generating tens of millions of dollars a month from black market oil sales, ransoms and extortion, officials said on Thursday.
It earns US dollar 1 million a day alone by selling crude oil from fields captured when the group swept across Iraq and Syria earlier this year, said David Cohen, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
Because the group, also known as ISIL, has “amassed wealth at an unprecedented pace” from different sources than most terror groups, it presents a particular challenge to the US and its allies working to choke off money flows.
“We have no silver bullet, no secret weapon to empty ISIL's coffers overnight. This will be a sustained fight, and we are in the early stages,” Cohen said. He is among a team of Obama administration officials leading the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group, seeking to get allies, including Gulf countries, on board.
IS is now “considered the world's wealthiest and most financially sophisticated terrorist organisation,” said Marwan Muasher, vice president at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Unlike al-Qaeda, IS does not attract most of its funds from deep-pocketed rich donors, often in Gulf countries, or from state sponsors.
Yet “with the important exception of some state-sponsored terrorist organisations, ISIL is probably the best-funded terrorist organisation we have confronted,” Cohen said, warning its revenue sources were “deep and diverse.”
The group's “primary funding tactics enable it today to generate tens of millions of dollars per month,” he told the think-tank.
Oil sales alone from captured refineries are allowing the militants to produce some 50,000 barrels a day sold “at substantially discounted prices to a variety of middle men, including some from Turkey, who then transport the oil to be resold.”
Oil has also been sold to Kurds in Iraq, and then resold to Turkey, as it has “tapped into a long-standing and deeply rooted black market connecting traders in and around the area.”
Even Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, which is fighting ISIL as well as the moderate US-backed opposition, has got in on the act and “made an arrangement to purchase oil from ISIL”—from fields and refineries once under Syrian control.
The group has also pocketed about US dollar 20 million this year through kidnappings, particularly of journalists and European hostages.