More than a year after the collapse of its self-declared caliphate, the Islamic State is sitting on a mountain of stolen cash and gold that its leaders stashed away to finance terrorist operations and ensure the organization’s survival years into the future, intelligence officials and terrorism experts say.
As the Islamist militants retreated from former strongholds in Iraq and Syria, they carried vast sums in Western and Iraqi currency and gold coins — a trove estimated by independent experts to total about $400 million — nearly all of it looted from banks or acquired through criminal enterprises.
While some of this treasure was buried or hidden away, the group’s leaders have laundered tens of millions of dollars by investing in legitimate businesses throughout the Middle East over the past year, the officials said. The money is partly intended, analysts say, to fund a future resurgence of the Islamic State, a prospect that some experts fear could be hastened by the rapid U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria announced by the Trump administration this week. [Continue reading…]