Saturday, June 28, 2014

In Iraq and Syria, ISIS Militants Are Flush With Funds

How the Terrorists Got Rich

By JUAN C. ZARATE and THOMAS M. SANDERSON, NYT, JUNE 28, 2014

A FEW feet from the Bab al-Salam border crossing near the Turkish town of Kilis, there is a shabby cafe where the most interesting items for sale are not found on the menu. The cafe is the final stop for young radicalized men from Europe or North Africa who are planning to slip past the lax Turkish border officers and into Syrian territory. This is where they exchange their passports for cash. When one of us visited the cafe in January, a Belgian passport was for sale for $8,000. A buyer could have it altered for movement to Europe or visa-free travel to the United States. New passport photos were being snapped in the parking lot.

Half a continent away, in Kuwait, on an evening in March, a soon-to-be auctioned 1982 Chevy Caprice Classic awkwardly sat parked on carpets outside a tent. Inside potential bidders were being asked to alleviate the suffering of Syrians with “humanitarian contributions.” Few could have had any doubt that once their money found its way to Syria, fighters — some affiliated with Al Qaeda — would decide whether to use it to buy aspirin for children or ammunition for killers.

On June 10, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, moved on Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. The advance blew the uniforms off hapless soldiers and police officers, and left prison cells and bank vaults emptied of their contents. In the largest bank holdup in recent memory, ISIS operatives reportedly stole up to $400 million in cash. Flush with money, ISIS will have the resources (as well as the territory) to establish itself as the hub of a global terrorist movement in the heart of the Middle East. There are no Treasury paratroopers to send in to seize the cash, or bank regulations to issue to stop ISIS from spending it.

(More here.)

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