Wars are costly for those who engage in them, but for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the more the group fights in Iraq, the seemingly wealthier it gets.
According to the New York Times, the Iraq insurgents are reaping in wealth as they advance through the country.
Baiji ISIS AFP
ISIS, who had been fighting in Syria’s civil war, gained control of many swathes of Iraqi territories since earlier this month, including Mosul, the country’s second largest city. Their main objective is to fight the Shiite government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The group is making money by seizing the wealth at the cities they control. The Mosul Central Bank and other banks in the province of Nineveh have been the source of their wealth.
Mosul mayor and Nineveh governor Atheel al-Nujaifi said that ISIS militants had also stolen millions from numerous banks across Mosul – as well as large quantities of gold bullion, news website International Business Times reported last week.
“The insurgents seized as much as $400 million from the central bank in Mosul, Atheel Nujaifi, the governor of Nineveh Province, told The New York Times this week.
“They reportedly emptied the vaults in all the other banks in the city. Other officials cite lower figures when discussing the central bank theft,” The New York Times reported.
A member of the board of governors of the Central Bank of Iraq was reluctant to specify to the newspaper how much ISIS got away with in Mosul, but estimated that it at least $85 million and possibly much more.
The newspaper also cited Gen. Mahdi Gharawi, the Nineveh Province police commander, as saying that ISIS’ extortion rackets in Mosul netted as much as $8 million a month.
“So-called road taxes of $200 on trucks are collected all over northern Iraq to allow them safe passage. The Iraqi government claims that the insurgents are now levying a ‘tax’ on Christians in Mosul, who were a significant minority there, to avoid being crucified,” the newspaper added.
In Syria's Qalmoun, ISIS had managed to smuggle artifacts that are more than 8,000 years old and worth millions of dollars.
According to The Guardian, since 2012, the organization has controlled oil wells in Syria and sold some of this oil to the Syrian regime itself.
This is in addition to other crimes: "blackmail, theft and abduction for ransoms."
The Guardian reported a senior Iraqi intelligence official as saying: "Before Mosul, their (ISIS’) total cash and assets were $875m. Afterwards, with the money they robbed from banks and the value of the military supplies they looted, they could add another $1.5bn to that."
The issue of funding ISIS has been brought up in all international condemnations of the group.
The most recent one was that of U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, who expressed the importance of ending any funding or support of ISIS.
Unlike other extremist groups, ISIS seemingly does not have financial problems that prevent it from attaining arms and recruiting extremists, all while using technology and social media networks to advance.