Iraq News

Iraqi forces seek to sever ISIS revenue stream

By Khalid al-Taie

These two men, arrested in Ninawa province on March 10th, 2018, have been charged with selling silver bullion to fund ISIS. [Photo courtesy of al-Suqour intelligence unit]

These two men, arrested in Ninawa province on March 10th, 2018, have been charged with selling silver bullion to fund ISIS. [Photo courtesy of al-Suqour intelligence unit]

Following the military defeat of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) in Iraq, Iraqi forces have been stepping up their efforts to identify and destroy the group's funding sources, security sources said.

Cutting off these revenue streams is a "top priority", Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) spokesman Sabah al-Numan told Diyaruna, noting that a shortage of funds will help to prevent ISIS terror cells from regrouping.

"We are working with security and government agencies, such as the Central Bank, to cut off the flow of funding for ISIS members under any pretext," he said.

These measures are designed to "prevent terrorists from re-grouping and recruiting new members and thus resuming their activity", al-Numan said.

They have been "just as successful" as military operations that track down ISIS remnants and target their hideouts, he added.

Significant co-operation between Iraqi and international counter-terrorism and intelligence agencies also has boosted efforts to target terror funding, he said.

Capturing ISIS financiers

Since late 2017, when ISIS was defeated in Iraq, Iraqi forces have captured dozens of financiers who were working behind the scenes to move and collect money and hand it over to the group.

"Money transfers via exchange bureaus and brokerages used to be the main source of funding for ISIS," said Fadel Abu Ragheef, a security expert specialising in terrorist groups.

As part of a crackdown on terror financing, some major financial networks have been implicated in funneling funds to ISIS, he told Diyaruna.

These include al-Rawi financial network, which owned holding companies and foreign investments "estimated in the millions of dollars across a range of sectors such as car dealerships, real estate and fish farming", he said.

Ten members of the network, led by Fawaz al-Rawi, were arrested during an Iraqi Special Operations Forces and Kurdish Counter-Terrorism Forces operation in Baghdad and Erbil backed by the international coalition in October.

Also in October, Iraqi security forces backed by the international coalition captured ISIS financier Amer Salim Hamza after he was lured back into the country from the UAE.

A number of his partners, who ran financial services companies in the Kurdish region that had been implicated in funding ISIS, also were captured.

Breaking up criminal networks

On February 21st, Iraqi intelligence forces broke up a network of 15 Iraqis and 20 French nationals who were in possession of more than $500 million that had been used for investment purposes and as a cover for financing ISIS.

Intelligence forces also arrested financiers who were responsible for pumping cash into the group while it was in control of Iraqi territory, Abu Ragheef said.

This included the March 21st arrest, carried out by an intelligence unit, of an ISIS element who was responsible for collecting taxes for the group.

In addition to levying taxes against the people in the areas under its control, ISIS has raised money for its coffers through the smuggling and sale of oil and artefacts and by dealing in gold and silver bullion, livestock and crops.

Security and intelligence efforts to arrest any individual who is found to be financing terrorism are "commendable", Ninawa provincial council member Hassan Shubeib al-Sabawi told Diyaruna.

"We recently met with security and intelligence commanders and were informed of the activities our forces are undertaking to cut off ISIS funding," he said, noting that these efforts led to the arrest of several individuals and networks.

These "strong and effective" measures have served to sever the financial support to terrorists and their sleeper cells, he added.

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