Seized Files Reveal IS Office of “War Spoils”

Seized Files Reveal IS Office of “War Spoils”Seized Files Reveal IS Office of “War Spoils”

The self-styled Islamic State terrorist group has set up departments to handle “war spoils”, including slaves and the exploitation of natural resources such as oil, creating the trappings of government that enable it to manage large swaths of Syria and Iraq and other areas.

The hierarchical bureaucracy, including petty rivalries between officials and legal codes in the form of religious fatwas, is detailed in a cache of documents seized by US Special Operations Forces in a May raid in Syria that killed top IS financial official Abu Sayyaf.

Reuters has reviewed some of the documents.

US officials say the documents have helped deepen their understanding of a militant group whose skill in controlling the territory it has seized has surprised many. They provide insight into how a once small insurgent group has developed a complex bureaucracy to manage revenue streams—from pillaged oil to stolen antiquities—and oversee subjugated populations.

“This really kind of brings it out. The level of bureaucratization, organization, the diwans, the committees,” Brett McGurk, president Barack Obama’s special envoy for the anti-IS coalition, said.

For example, one diwan, roughly equivalent to a government ministry, handles natural resources, including the exploitation of antiquities from ancient empires. Another processes “war spoils,” including slaves.

The documents also show how “meticulous and data-oriented” IS manages the oil and gas sector, although it is not a sophisticated operation, said Amos Hochstein, the State Department’s top official for energy affairs.

US officials said the documents have helped the anti-IS coalition to pinpoint vulnerabilities. The documents show IS is not immune to the rivalries and personality clashes that typify bureaucracies everywhere.

Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the documents it obtained, which represent a fraction of the material seized in the Syria raid. US forces captured a huge amount of data in the form of computer hard drives, thumb drives, CDs, DVDs and papers.

Many of the seized documents are fatwas, or religious rulings, covering issues from rape of female prisoners and the treatment of slaves with minor children to when it is permissible for a son to steal from his father to fund travel to fight holy war.

A booklet entitled “From Creator’s Rulings on Capturing Prisoners and Enslavement,” dating October 2014, lays out rules on enslaving women seized from vanquished “infidels”.

Middle East Forum’s Tamimi said the fatwas are intended to bolster IS claim that it is a legitimate state. The rules not only apply to captured territory in Iraq and Syria, but also its self-declared provinces in Africa, the Sinai and South Asia. They cover even mundane issues.

In the documents, there is a ruling on proper procedure for filling out the personal details of prospective fighters: name, gender and communications method—telephone, telegram, Skype or the mobile messaging service WhatsApp.