Defense officials announced on Monday that U.S. airstrikes destroyed tens of millions of dollars which were stored in a bank. The airstrike was launched just before dawn on the ISIS controlled city of Mosul. Military officials have not commented on reports that innocent civilians were killed. American forces have been targeting ISIS’ main money source – oil smuggling, since November. They’ve been bombing ISIS controlled oil fields and tanker trucks carrying it to Turkey. NBC News reported that ISIS was making $8 to $10 million a month.
The new intelligence about ISIS finances was discovered after U.S. commandos killed the militants’ “money man, known as Abu Sayyaf, last May in a raid on his Syrian hideout. They also captured his Iraqi wife, identified as Umm Sayyaf, and seized several computers from their compound. ISIS uses some of the blood money to pay its fighters monthly salaries and provide stipends to their families. Foreign fighters earn nearly $1,000 a month. Unlike al-Qaeda, ISIS is running a state in the Syrian and Iraqi territory it has taken over and it needs money to keep the schools running and to fund a complex welfare system that enables it to buy the loyalty of its subjects.
ISIS has used a robust taxation system across territory it controls to ensure that oil isn’t the only source of money flowing into terrorists’ coffers, an investigation last month revealed. Even if coalition airstrikes succeed in bringing down ISIS’ production of oil — which nets the terror group an estimated $450 million in revenues each year – a small army of tax collectors is raking in nearly as much, the Financial Times reported. This is the second time the U.S. has bombed the Islamic State’s cash stockpiles. Combined with attacking the militants’ oil resources, it is part of an effort to sap their financial strength.
Under pressure from critics who say the campaign is moving too slowly, the Pentagon has indicated it would consider a wider array of targets even if these might cause civilian deaths, provided these attacks yield significant gains against the jihadists. It was not immediately clear if the money had been in US dollars, some other foreign currency, or local dinars.
ISIS has been described as the richest terrorist organization in the world and has even been the target of an economic campaign which aims to expose the inner economic workings of ISIS and related groups and to stop its campaigning through social media networks. Defense officials say the coalition had targeted cash-holding facilities once or twice in the past year, but the most recent action was “probably” the biggest to date.