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Withered Islamic State ‘caliphate’ shorn of funds, IHS says

LiveMint logoLiveMint 29-06-2017 Donna Abu-Nasr

Beirut: Three years after Islamic State declared its caliphate on parts of Iraq and Syria, it has lost roughly two thirds of its territory and 80% of its revenue, IHS Markit, a London-based information and analytics group, said Thursday.

Territory controlled by Islamic State spanned an estimated 36,200 square kilometers on 26 June, or roughly the size of Belgium. That’s down 40% since the start of 2017 and 60% since a first estimate in January 2015, according to IHS Markit’s latest analysis.

Islamic State’s fortunes have suffered this year on both the Iraqi and Syrian fronts. US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have advanced into the outskirts of Syria’s Raqqa, the extremist group’s self-declared capital, while Syrian government forces are pushing east toward Deir Ezzor. In Iraq, government forces and Iran-backed militias are preparing to eliminate the last remaining pockets of Islamic State control in Mosul.

ALSO READ : Iraq declares end of caliphate after capture historic Mosul mosque

Mosul’s liberation is a matter of days, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi said last week, according to local Al-Sumaria TV. The central command of the US-led coalition against Islamic State has pronounced the jihadists’ defeat in the city as “inevitable.”

On Thursday, Iraqi forces retook Mosul’s landmark Nuri Mosque compound where Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared the caliphate in 2014, according to al-Sumaria TV.

“The Islamic State’s remaining caliphate is likely to break up before the end of the year, reducing its governance project to a string of isolated urban areas that will eventually be retaken over the course of 2018,” said Columb Strack, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit.

Russia has reported that it may have killed Baghdadi during a bombing raid in May. His death hasn’t been confirmed.

The territorial losses have battered the group’s wealth. Islamic State’s average monthly revenue fell 80% to $16 million in the second quarter of 2017 from $81 million two years earlier, IHS Markit said in the report. Average monthly oil revenue is down 88% and income from taxation and confiscation has fallen by 79% from initial estimates in 2015, according to the report.

Main factor

“Territorial losses are the main factor contributing to the Islamic State’s loss of revenue,” said Ludovico Carlino, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit. “Losing control of the heavily populated Iraqi city of Mosul, and oil rich areas in the Syrian provinces of Raqqa and Homs, has had a particularly significant impact on the group’s ability to generate revenue.”

As its rule collapses in the Middle East, the group has intensified its campaign of terrorist attacks further afield, the report said.

Islamic State declared a caliphate straddling parts of Syria and Iraq after capturing Raqqa in 2013 and Mosul a year later. Since then, extremists linked to the group have proliferated and murdered hundreds in London, Ankara, Beirut, Brussels and Paris as well as in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.

In Syria alone, 4,880 people, including 292 children, have been killed in three years by Islamic State bombings, beheadings, firing squads or stoning, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is chronicling the Syrian war through activists on the ground, said Thursday. Bloomberg

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