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How did ISIL get so rich?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 02:21

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant shocked many with the speed it has captured territory in northwest and central Iraq. It's also considered the richest jihadi organisation. As Joanna Partridge reports, ISIL gets money from controlling energy fields, foreign donors, and extortion.

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UPSOUND They're not the kind of videos you're used to seeing from jihadist groups. ISIL - the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant - doesn't just have highly-produced recruitment films. It's also considered to be the richest jihadi organisation in the world - even the Pentagon calls it "well resourced". ISIL has captured territory in northwest and central Iraq with stunning speed. That's partly due to its finances, says Firas Abi Ali from IHS. SOUNDBITE: Firas Abi Ali, Senior Manager, MENA Country Risk IHS, saying (English): "In a war, being able to fund yourself is a critical part of being able to survive. ISIL's funding definitely helps it establish itself and gain more territory, it helps it buy loyalities, it helps it pay various government workers to ensure that they show up, it helps it bribe other groups so that they pledge allegiance to it." It's not easy to find out exactly where ISIL get their money from. After taking over Mosul, reports suggest an estimated half a billion dollars was taken from the city's central bank. Along with cash from selling oil, some is thought to come from donors - either individuals or states. Add to that income from taxes they've imposed, and ransoms paid for kidnapping victims. SOUNDBITE: Firas Abi Ali, Senior Manager, MENA Country Risk IHS, saying (English): "They have access to funding through their control of a number of energy fields in Syria, they've also been able to extort money from businesses in cities in Iraq, we are hearing some reports, albeit unconfirmed, that they've been able to extort money from members of the Iraqi army. We constantly hear that ISIL is smuggling energy into Turkey, we hear reports that ISIL is being paid by the Syrian government in exchange for letting the oil continue flowing into Syrian refineries. This is unusual." No other insurgent groups are thought to be in charge of functioning energy infrastructure. The Baiji oil refinery north of Baghdad - the country's biggest - has been the scene of fierce battles between Iraqi troops and Sunni militants for the past two weeks. ISIL's goal is to build an Islamic caliphate from the Mediterranean Sea to Iran. Disrupting their financing will go some way towards preventing that. But given their many and varied funding sources they may be able to survive for several months even if one was cut off.

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How did ISIL get so rich?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 02:21

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