Archive for the ‘News commentary’ Category

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Update: oil grosses ISIS $8-10m monthly

July 27, 2015

U.S. officials say new figures on oil revenues of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are more accurate than previous estimates.  The new figures suggest ISIS receives about $100 million a year.  NBC reports that the revenues are “three times as much” as previously thought, but that’s not really true.  A 2014 estimate from a Turkish opposition official was of $800 million a year.  So the headline could have been changed to “eight times less,” but it’s still good to have updated information.  From NBC News (h/t Mia):

ISIS Makes Three Times as Much from Oil Smuggling as Previously Thought: Officials

Two U.S. counter-terrorism officials tell NBC News that intelligence gathered from a U.S. raid in Syria details ISIS finances, revealing millions of dollars in oil wealth.

“The more time on target, the better the estimate,” a senior U.S. official told NBC News. U.S. intelligence agencies have spent a lot of “time on target” since the target, ISIS, emerged just over a year ago. As a result, their understanding of the group’s workings is becoming more intimate.

Oil smuggling, much of it to Turkey, is a key source of income for ISIS. The group uses the money in part to pay its fighters monthly salaries and provide stipends to their families. Foreign fighters tend to be the highest paid of the ISIS recruits, earning as much as a $1,000 a month, according to two Syrian sources.

ISIS, unlike al-Qaeda, sees itself as a state, providing an education and welfare system, which means the group has high running costs. Two U.S. counter-terrorism officials now tell NBC News that the amount of money ISIS can earn from selling and smuggling oil and gas is roughly to $8 to $10 million a month. The officials said this is the most accurate information they have had so far, calling previous estimates speculation.

“We have learned more about the internal market. ISIS sells oil and gas everywhere. It sells within Syria, and to the Syrian regime. It sells in Iraq. It is a more extensive and complex market than we assumed,” a senior counter-terrorism official said.

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Terror financier deported

July 24, 2015

This individual supported Qoqaz.net, a flagship jihadi website of the early 2000s (see here and here).  He also supported Azzam Publications, a website which instructed readers how to send money to the Taliban in 2001.  His prison sentence in the U.S. is up, and he’s heading back to Britain.  The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a press release about the deportation last week (h/t to @skinroller):

ICE deports prolific terrorist fundraiser to UK

PHILADELPHIA — A British national who was sentenced in federal court for multiple crimes supporting terrorism fundraising efforts was deported late Monday. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) led the investigation into the terrorist supporter’s activities, and ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) handed him over to British authorities.

Babar Ahmad, 41, was extradited to the United States in 2012 to face charges for operating a family of websites collectively known as Azzam Publications, which an HSI investigation determined was established to “incite the believers” and also to raise money for known terrorist groups, including the Taliban.

Ahmad admitted to the crime in 2013 and received a 150-month prison sentence by a federal judge in July 2014. He was deported once he completed the prison term, which included time served in Britain and the United States leading up to his sentencing…

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How Baathists cashed in before checking out

July 19, 2015

Further clues have emerged that that the looting of museums following the 2003 invasion of Iraq wasn’t really the result of lax security or random looters from the street.  It was probably a systematic inside job by an organized syndicate of corrupt Baathist officials before they went underground.  The antiquities they stole were either sold to help fund the insurgency or were kept by former officials who later joined AQI which became ISIS.

At least the Washington Post reported on the discovery (h/t MFS001), although it buried the most important connection in paragraph 15 of a 17 paragraph article (in bold below, emphasis mine):

Artifacts looted during the Iraq invasion turned up in the house of an Islamic State leader

BAGHDAD — The United States handed over more than 400 ancient artifacts to Iraq on Wednesday, part of ongoing efforts to repatriate the country’s looted heritage. But this latest batch has a particularly intriguing back story — the antiquities were seized by U.S. Special Operations forces members as they raided the house of a leader of the Islamic State militant group.

The nighttime operation to capture the militant took place in eastern Syria in May, and the Delta Force troops did not come back with their prize. It was their first such ground mission in the country, and their main target, a man known as Abu Sayyaf who ran oil operations for the Islamic State in the area, was killed in an ensuing firefight.

But as the commandos scoured the compound for documents and laptops that could provide intelligence about the organization, they stumbled across artifacts thought to be dating back as far as 4,000 years.

Among them was a religious text written in Aramaic, the ancient Semitic language said to have been spoken by Jesus. An official at the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad said Wednesday that it was about 500 years old but has not yet been properly dated. (Museum officials also said that, as with many of the items found, they could not be sure whether the text was of Syrian or Iraqi origin.)

There were hundreds of coins — some of them gold from the Abbassid era, others silver pieces from the Umayyad period. There were stone cylindrical seals from the ancient city of Nimrud and fragments of pottery.

The presence of the artifacts in Abu Sayyaf’s house is perhaps not surprising. The Islamic State’s “Diwan al-Rikaz” — a ministry overseeing precious resources — has departments in charge of both oil and gas and antiquities. Abu Sayyaf may well have had a role in the sale of these resources…

…Among the items found in the house were three Babylonian stone seals, which officials said were stolen in 2003 from the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad during the chaos that followed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Their museum numbering is still visible…

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More benefit fraud for jihad

July 17, 2015

British leaders are finally starting to realize that benefit fraud by Islamists isn’t just about private greed.  The stolen benefits are actually being used by men and women to join the battle in Syria and Iraq against perceived infidels.  The Muslim British youngsters have taken the teachings of Anjem Choudary and others to heart, learning that it is acceptable to steal money from infidel countries through their generous welfare programs so long as that money is used in furtherance of jihad.

From the Daily Mail (h/t El Grillo):

ISIS jihadis in Syria and Iraq are funding their evil war by milking Britain’s benefits system through false claims, online fraud and student loans

  • Experts fear that jihadis have committed frauds to abuse welfare system 
  • DWP has launched a probe to establish the extent of the fraud 
  • Hundreds of Brits are believed to have joined ISIS in Iraq and Syria
  • First time the Whitehall department has admitted the fraudulent claims

ISIS terrorists are abusing the UK benefits system to fund their holy war in Iraq and Syria, authorities fear.

Hundreds of Brits are believed to have travelled abroad to fight with ISIS and many of them are still believed to be claiming taxpayer-funded benefits.

Experts believe jihadists have committed a number of high-level frauds to deliberately abuse the welfare system.

While a number of countries do have benefits agreements with the UK that allow British citizens to continue claiming state hand-outs, Iraq and Syria are not among them.

But the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Fraud and Error Service has launched a series of reviews after people living in Iraq and Syria successfully pocketed UK benefits…

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Afghan jihadists seek funds to help ISIS

July 14, 2015

Militants are using Afghanistan to raise money for the Islamic State terror group.  This assertion is coming from Afghan officials.  The officials could benefit from international security aid, so they may be a little biased.  But it’s hard to ignore them as ISIS has expanded its appeal around the globe.  It stands to reason that Central Asia jihadists might be looking for a champion with a more recent string of successes than the Taliban.  From Khaama Press on June 13 (h/t @skinroller):

ISIS affiliates in Afghanistan seeking financial help to rise: Ulomi

The Minister of Interior Noor-ul-Haq Ulomi said Saturday that the militants who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group, are seeking financial support to maintain their operations in the country.

Presenting the ministry’s 100-Day plans and strategies, Ulomi said the ISIS affiliates include Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kyrgyz nationals, Chechens, Turks and Uyghurs.

He said the ISIS affiliates are looking to create sanctuaries in Afghanistan considering the geographic interests of the country and by taking advantage of the ongoing violence.

Insisting on regional cooperation to curb the activities of the terror group, Ulomi warned it would be difficult to stop the terror group from spreading its activities if it gained a foothold in Afghanistan.

The remarks by Ulomi comes as the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group in Afghanistan would threaten neighboring Russia and China if the group gained a strong foothold in the country.

Karzai insisted that the rise of the terror group in Afghanistan would not be possible without the foreign backing. “So, if you hear ever in the coming days, or months, or years that Daesh is on the rise in Afghanistan, and is strong and expanding militarily, it will mean that it is a foreign-backed force intending to destabilize the region, particularly Central Asia, China and Russia,” he added.

On the other hand, the Afghan national security advisor Hanif Atmar said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group is looking to have access to drugs market by starting operations in Afghanistan…

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Loans by text pay jihadists’ way to Syria

July 13, 2015

Swedish Islamists are taking out loans through text message services to join the battle in Syria.  They use the borrowed funds to buy plane tickets, cars and, presumably, other equipment when they arrive.  Sweden’s security agency says that a majority of fighters’ travels are debt-financed.  Thus the lenders are violating the first rule of lending:  character.  What kind of screening are these small lenders performing on their borrowers?  So much for knowing your customer.

From The Local on June 22 (h/t Moscow Ghost):

SMS loans fund Syria terror trips from Sweden

Sweden’s Security Service (Säpo) has warned that growing numbers of muslims are funding trips to Syria with money secured via text message loans secured in Sweden.

Investigators working for the security service told Sveriges Radio that there had been a rise in people taking trips to the Middle East to fight alongside terror organisations such as Isis (also known as IS) over the last year, with growing numbers of visits funded by loans taken out in Sweden.

Martin Frimansson, an expert on terrorist funding at Säpo, explained that while some Swedes had borrowed money from banks or using Swedish credit cards, others had paid for their travel using SMS loans (money borrowed via text message from private companies) or made their way to Syria and Iraq using cars rented in Sweden.

According to Frimansson, a “clear majority” of trips were made possible due to loans, although he did not give any specific figures.

He suggested that some Swedes were also taking out loans in order to raise their status within Isis or other terror groups.

“It could be that if you have a car and money…you automatically become a team leader. If you have no money when you arrive, no car or anything – then maybe you’ll be the ambulance driver,” he said.

By law, credit companies and banks are required to adhere to a range of measures designed to prevent the financing of terror activities, but according to Säpo the trend for Swedes borrowing money for suspect trips to the Middle East suggests that much more needs to be done.

The security service is calling on lenders to file reports on people who are failing to repay their loans more quickly and to be stricter about who they lend money to in the first place.

“They are the first hurdle to stopping terrorist financing. It is a big responsibility,” said Frimansson.

In April, Säpo told The Local there was “very little” it could do to stop people travelling to Syria to join al-Qaeda inspired groups, as EU officials estimated up to 6,000 people from across Europe have now fought in the war-torn nation.

It confirmed that at least 150 Swedish residents were known to have been to Syria or Iraq to fight for Isis or other extremist groups, with intelligence suggesting that at least 35 had died in the process.

Earlier this year, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad also told Sweden’s tabloid newspaper Expressen that he believed some of “the most dangerous leaders of Daesh and Isis in our region are Scandinavian”…

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Kenya puts al-Shabaab on sugar-free diet

July 12, 2015

Kenya is tightening the screws against the multi-million sugar smuggling business that profits al-Shabaab across the border in Somalia.  (See here and here for prior coverage of al-Shabaab’s sugar business.)  The surprising thing about this report is the quotation from a security source who described the crackdown by saying, “It’s like the government is awakening.”  Money Jihad believed that the Kenyan government was one of the few entities that have taken the threat of al-Shabaab seriously, and that they have taken steps before to reduce the flow of money to the terror group over the past several years.  Whatever the case, it would be more significant if the Gulf states, which are some of the biggest buyers of Somali contraband, joined Kenya on operations like this.  But don’t hold your breath for that.

From Midnimo last month (h/t El Grillo):

Somalia: Kenya wages war on smugglers who fund Somali Islamist militants

When Kenyan police arrested six men in the vast Dadaab refugee camp near the Somali border last April, their ultimate aim was to dismantle a decades-old sugar smuggling trade that is funding Somali militants waging war on Kenya.

The arrests, coming weeks after four al Shabaab gunmen massacred 148 people at nearby Garissa university, were part of Nairobi’s new strategy to choke off the flow of money to Islamists whose cross-border raids have hammered Kenya and its tourism industry.

While cash from sugar smuggling may amount to only a few million dollars, experts say such sums are enough for attacks that need just a few assault rifles, transport and loyalists ready to die – such as the Garissa raid or the 2013 assault on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall that killed 67 people.

“It’s like the government is awakening,” said a senior Kenyan security source from Garissa region, adding the authorities had previously often “turned a blind eye to all these things because a lot of people were benefiting – but at a cost of security.”

However if a lasting impact is to be secured more must be done, say security and diplomatic sources. That includes rooting out corruption in the police force and going after smuggling cartel bosses as well as the middle men detained so far.

The move to tackle the cross-border trade may prove as vital as the military offensive against al Shabaab inside Somalia by African Union peacekeepers and Somali soldiers that has pushed the group into smaller pockets of territory…

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