U.S. offers $5M reward for tips ending Islamic State oil trade

By Tomas Monzon  |  Sept. 30, 2015 at 9:09 AM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department on Tuesday announced a $5 million reward for tips to stymie the Islamic State's sales of oil and antiquities.

As of July, the IS -- also identified as Daesh, ISIS and ISIL -- has brought in $8 million to $10 million dollars each month through its smuggling of oil and gas throughout Iraq and Syria. Additional funds have been reaped from the sale of antiquities stolen by IS militants, and from extortion, robbery and ransom.

The funds have been used to pay monthly salaries to its militants and provide stipends to their families.

The State Department said the reward marks the first time its "Rewards for Justice" program incentivizes the public to take part in stymiying a terrorist group's activities. In addition to fizzling their financial income, the State Department said opposing the militants would help preserve cultural and historical sites that would otherwise be looted and destroyed, such as Syria's Palmyra earlier in September.

The reward announcement follows the release of a congressional report by an eight-member bipartisan task force which determined the United States is failing to decrease the number of Americans who travel abroad to join the IS. Since 2011, more than 25,000 foreigners from the United States and other countries have traveled to Syria to join the group, with at least 7,000 of those joining the ranks since December 2014.

Some progress in cutting off the Islamic State's revenue stream has been made. Risk consultancy group Verisk Maplecroft confirmed the group's oil income nosedived to $500,000 a day from last year's figure of $1.6 million a day. Additionally, airstrikes have damaged IS infrastructure including wells, makeshift gas and diesel refiners, and fuel convoys.

The IS has resorted to extortion and taxing, such as levying a 50 percent tariff on Iraqi government salaries, and vehicles passing through IS territory are charged 10 percent of the value of whatever they are carrying. Business owners must fork over 2.5 percent of their annual revenue.

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