ISIS terrorists gain ground, riches - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

ISIS terrorists gain ground, riches

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ISIS militants sell oil and power to nations after they capture territory with the resources. (Source: CNN) ISIS militants sell oil and power to nations after they capture territory with the resources. (Source: CNN)
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WASHINGTON, DC (CNN) - Some are calling ISIS the world's most dangerous terrorist group.

It's also possibly the richest.

You may have heard that ISIS fighters have been looting cities as they take control of them.

That's given them a huge windfall to be sure.

And it's not the only source of their money.

In Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, ISIS struck gold, literally. They robbed that city's central bank taking a large amount of gold and an estimated $430 million.

A smash-n-grab like that, some experts predict, could make them the richest terror organization in the world.

The Council on Foreign Relations reports that most of ISIS's financing comes from smuggling, extortion, and other crimes.

ISIS is even cashing in on oil, selling crude from oil fields they took control of in northern Syria right back to the Syrian government.

The New York Times reports ISIS is also selling electricity from captured power plants back to the government too.

"They also do a lot of the traditional terrorist fundraising activities: Kidnapping, robbing, thieving, they're involved in the drug trade, they have money laundering schemes," said Daily Beast senior correspondent Josh Rogin.

In the Daily Beast news web site, Rogin reports that ISIS has also been funded for years by wealthy private donors living in countries the U.S. considers allies. Countries like Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. And that those governments, says Rogin, know it's happening but choose to look away.

"The governments could have had plausible deniability and say they weren't funding them directly. At the very least they were looking the other way," Rogin said.

If you do the math, ISIS may be worth at least $500 million after its attack on Mosul's main bank.

In 2011, the Taliban was said to be worth an estimated $70 million to $400 million. Even al-Qaida can't compete. Al-Qaida had an operating budget of about $30 million a year before the 9/11 attacks.

And all of this cash on hand only allows ISIS to attract more extremist fighters, who are drawn to higher salaries.

Big money also helps ISIS finance large scale prison raids, liberating hundreds of fighters who then join their ranks.

"ISIS is a group that can't be negotiated with. The more resources they have, the more aggressive they'll be, the more violent they're going to be," Rogin said.

All the riches and power elevate the risk in the Middle East, and potentially around the globe.

Copyright 2014 CNN. All rights reserved.

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