US official calls for vigilance against IS refinancing


Riyadh (AFP)

Vigilance must be maintained against the Islamic State group's ability to finance itself even as it loses territory in Iraq, a senior US treasury official said in Riyadh on Thursday.

"It has the ability to, with relatively small amounts of financial resources, to rebuild capability," said the official, who sought anonymity to speak more freely during a meeting with foreign reporters.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi fighters are advancing on the city of Mosul, the last major city under control of the Sunni extremists in that country.

If Mosul falls, Syria's Raqa will be the only significant city in either Syria or Iraq under IS control, the vestige of a cross-border "caliphate" the jihadists declared after seizing large parts of both countries in mid-2014.

IS, which inspired attacks around the world and whose atrocities included the beheading of foreign hostages and enslaving Yazidi women, derived illicit proceeds from its occupied territory.

A report last year by the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force said those sources included bank looting and extortion, control of oil fields and refineries, robbery of economic assets, and kidnapping for ransom.

"Our sense is that we have made considerable progress limiting ISIL's access to multiple forms of ongoing financial support," the official said, using another acronym for IS.

But he added "we are very conscious of the fact that it's a very resilient organisation and a creative one that finds new pathways".

The official said the battle against the finances of IS, also known as ISIL, "is going to remain a very central focus, not just of the GCC countries and the United states but really globally."