A United States air strike deploying two 2,000-pound bombs for wide-blast radius hits obliterated a bank in Mosul, northern Iraq, as part of a campaign against Islamic State (ISIS) financial centers. The structure housing al-Zuhour bank in an eastern district of the city was carefully targeted to avoid civilian casualties, but a post-attack assessment revealed five to seven people killed in the blast.
According to Reuters, a video of the damage suffered after the air strike hits the ISIS bank was posted by the jihadist group on Monday, January 11, 2016. Assorted debris of paper shreds, tree branches, and charred furniture make up gruesome props for rescuers extracting an old man’s bloodied body from the building rubble.
U.S. Defense officials indicated earlier on Monday that the air strike making the hits on the ISIS bank was aimed at disrupting a cash distribution operation providing funds for “terrorist” activities. While the officials could not say exactly how much money was there or in what currency, the estimate given to CNN was “millions.”
According to Reuters, Iraq’s finance minister has tagged the same militants prompting the air strike as having made nearly half a billion dollars from hits of every bank in Mosul and the other northern cities of Tikrit and Baiji following the caliphate blitz across the Syrian border in 2014. ISIS has also created revenue streams from oil smuggling, racketeering, kidnapping, and taxing the millions of residents in conquered parts of Syria and Iraq.
U.S. Treasury official Daniel Glaser pegs Islamic State’s oil revenues at around $500 million a year, factored from the $40 million reportedly earned in one month in early 2015. The air strike targeted group is also believed to have made hits in the hundreds of millions of dollars a year in “taxes” on commercial activities, with the money deposited at the designated ISIS bank.
While the two U.S. defense officials interviewed by CNN could not say exactly how much money was there or in what currency, they confirmed the air strike hits destroying an ISIS bank building from which jihadist fighters were paid and their operations financed. Analysts have established that ISIS uses its loot to fund its operations, pay fighters a monthly salary, and provide welfare support to their families.
Drawn to the discussion of what the air strike revealed with its hits on an ISIS bank, analysts mention a cash depository for foreign recruits who are paid a premium rate of as much as $1,000 a month. ISIS also funds schools in its occupied Iraqi and Syrian territories, and keeps local residents in a state of compliance by offering them welfare handouts.
In an NBC report, U.S. defense and military officials acknowledged that the airstrike delivered two 2,000-pound bomb hits on the ISIS-run bank just before dawn Sunday in the Iraqi city of Mosul. However, there was no official word on Iraqi reports that innocent civilians were killed. The officials neither confirmed nor denied the reports, nor would they comment on whether or not guards were present in the bank during the bombing.
According to Fox, the air strike hits on the ISIS bank fit into a larger strategy by U.S. and coalition forces to weaken ISIS financially. Coordinated air raids have been sent against ISIS-controlled oil fields and tanker trucks suspected of oil smuggling, the Islamic State’s main income source.
U.S. Intelligence in July announced that ISIS was generating three times as much wealth from oil smuggling as previous estimates had established. Computers seized from Abu Sayyaf, ISIS’ main financial officer killed in a raid in Syria, would have provided key intelligence on ISIS wealth, and a rationale for airstrike hits on the ISIS bank.
[Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images]