ISIS is making up to $2 million a day from the sale of stolen oil and taxes extorted from people in Iraq and Syria, experts on the Middle East say of the Islamist terrorist group.
The group, which has seized control of a large swath of land in the Middle East, has been tapping into the oil wells seized during their expansion across Iraq and Syria. Financial experts say in raising the money, ISIS is showing a financial sophistication unlike any other terrorist organization, making them even more powerful.
From Bloomberg News:
Unlike other extremist groups’ reliance on foreign donations that can be squeezed by sanctions, diplomacy and law enforcement, the Islamic State’s predominantly local revenue stream poses a unique challenge to governments seeking to halt its advance and undermine its ability to launch terrorist attacks that in time might be aimed at the U.S. and Europe.
Matthew Kevitt is a former U.S. Treasury terrorism and financial intelligence official who is now in charge of the counterterrorism and intelligence program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Kevitt said ISIS is the wealthiest terrorist group in history. The income comes from the sale of oil on the black market as well as taxes extorted from local people.
Kidnapping is another source of revenue for ISIS. The group has held a number of Europeans, extracting millions of dollars for their return. Recently ISIS demanded a $6.6 million ransom for a 26-year-old American woman kidnapped while serving with a humanitarian organization in Syria.
While ISIS is expanding its revenue, the militant group has also been increasing its ranks. Experts say the group’s capture of Mosul was a turning point in the region, prompting many other Sunni groups to join their ranks. As a result, ISIS membership has increased nearly fivefold.
While western diplomats and other observers have estimated the number of militants number between 20,000 to 50,000. Hisham al-Hashimi, a security expert in Baghdad, said that the total membership of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria may now be closer to 100,000 members.
But the rapid growth has also created many enemies for ISIS. The United States has been conducting air strikes against the group and its bases, and Iran has now joined the assault against the militant group.