IS still has $300 million despite loss of Syria, Iraq territories

IS still has $300 million despite loss of Syria, Iraq territories
The Islamic State group is still in control of hundreds of millions of dollars, the UN has warned.
3 min read
06 August, 2019
IS still have hundreds of millions in their control [Getty]

The Islamic State group could still control as much as $300 million despite the loss of its territories in Iraq and Syria, without few overheads, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a report released Monday.

The group is still in charge of considerable cash reserves "with none of the financial demands of controlling territory and population" the UN warned, adding that the threat posed by IS remains and a lull in attacks by its supporters "may be temporary".

The UN said last week that IS leaders are aiming to consolidate and create conditions for an "eventual resurgence in its Iraqi and Syrian heartlands".

It also added that the lull in attacks by its militants "may not last long, possibly not even until the end of 2019".

Despite the losses of territories meaning it can no longer generate finances from oil fields and taxing people under its control, IS is believed to be capable of directing funds to support "terrorist acts" within Iraq and Syria and abroad. 

Informal money transfer businesses known as "hawaladars" are the most common method used to transfer funds, the UN said.

Looted antiquities from Iraq may be another source of revenue for IS, with militants returning home following the loss of the group's territories now establishing a special unit to sell these antiquities.

"Details of antiquities traded and the current location of any stored antiquities are assessed to be known only to ISIL leaders," he said.

The group has also encouraged its supporters to practice financial self-sufficiency throughout its network of supporters and affiliates elsewhere in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

There are also echoes in Syria of IS networks in Iraq with increased localised attacks on regime-controlled areas.

IS personnel, including some senior figures, "are also reported to have taken refuge in governorates where hostilities are ongoing", the UN report said.

Among IS including the burning of crops, "is designed to prevent normalisation and reconstruction, in the hope that the local population will ultimately blame the Iraqi authorities", Guterres said. 

"A similar approach is anticipated in the Syrian Arab Republic."

The report also highlights the continuing concerns posed by returning IS fighters and their families.

It cited estimates by several unnamed countries that an average of 25 percent of foreign fighters were killed and 15 percent are unaccounted for.

"Set against an approximate initial figure of 40,000 who joined the 'caliphate,' these percentages would suggest that between 24,000 and 30,000 foreign terrorist fighters are alive," the report said.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in late June that more than 55,000 suspected IS fighters and their families have been detained in Iraq and Syria. 

Most are in the custody of the Iraqi government and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, and the alleged fighters come from over 50 countries. More than 11,000 relatives of the fighters are being held at the Al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria alone, she said.

The secretary-general warned that "the threats posed in the short-term by adult detainees and in the medium to long-term by minors who are often traumatized and may become increasingly radicalized have the potential to grow more serious, with consequences for social integration and the potential risk of violence, including possible terrorist attacks in the future".

Guterres said the UN is ready to help with reintegrating and rehabilitating men, women and children who are stranded, especially in conflict zones.