20 Airstrikes Destroyed $800m of IS Funds

20 Airstrikes Destroyed $800m of IS Funds 20 Airstrikes Destroyed $800m of IS Funds

Up to $800m in cash held by the self-styled Islamic State has been destroyed in airstrikes, a US military official said.

Major General Peter Gersten, who is based in Baghdad, said the US had repeatedly targeted stores of the group’s funds.

The blow to the group’s financing has contributed to a 90% jump in defections and a drop in new arrivals. In 2014, the US Treasury called IS “the best-funded terrorist organization” it had encountered, BBC reported.

In a briefing to reporters, Gersten, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for the US-led operation against IS, said under 20 airstrikes targeting the group’s stores of money had been conducted. He did not specify how the US knew how much money had been destroyed.

In one case, he said, an estimated $150 million were destroyed at a house in Mosul, Iraq.

“Forces fighting IS received intelligence indicating in which room of the house money was stored. The room was then bombed from the air,” he said.

“While it was difficult to know precisely how much money had been destroyed in total, estimates put the figure at between $500 million and $800 million.”

The exact wealth of IS is not known but, after seizing oilfields and setting taxes, it approved a budget of $2 billion and predicted a $250 million surplus last year.

Since then, however, the group has lost territory and its oilfields have been targeted in airstrikes by the US-led coalition.

  Posing as Women

Gersten said US intelligence indicated the group’s cash troubles had led it to start selling vehicles to make money. 

In January, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that IS announced it was to cut fighters’ salaries in half “because of the exceptional circumstances that the Islamic State is passing through”.

“We’re seeing a fracture in their morale, we’re seeing their inability to pay, we’re seeing the inability to fight, we’re watching them try to leave Daesh in every single way,” Gersten added, using an Arabic term for IS.

Some defectors had been captured posing as women or as refugees in Iraq, he added.

Gersten said the number of those arriving to fight for IS in Iraq and Syria had fallen to about 200 a month, down from a peak of between 1,500 and 2,000 per month a year ago.

In February, the White House said it believed there were some 25,000 people fighting for IS, down from close to 31,500 last year. Turkey has come under repeated pressure by the United States to tighten its border with Syria and prevent people crossing into IS-held territory.