Islamic State militants are reportedly acquiring gold, silver and other precious metals in a bid to further solidify their control over large swathes of Syrian and Iraqi territory by issuing their own currency, Iraqi metal dealers confirmed to McClatchy.
Earlier this month, the militants’ Beit al Mal, an ancient Islamic term which translates as “Treasury Department,” issued a statement announcing the plan. The coins, which they plan to fashion from gold, silver and copper, will be modeled on the 8th century currency of the Umayyad Caliphate.
At the time, experts expressed doubts the militant group had the technological capability and overall knowhow to produce their own modern currency for the territory under their control; roughly one third of Iraq and Syria.
A recent report in McClatchy, however, which draws on interviews with precious metal dealers in northern and western Iraq, would indicate the group is in fact moving ahead to obtain enough material necessary to carry out the plan.
One Fallujah-based gold trader, identifying himself as Hajj Samir, told McClatchy that foreign jihadists had been buying up all the gold and silver in the city’s markets. He said he alone had sold more than 15 pounds to known affiliates of the militant group.
“They said it was for gifts for their wives, but now I know why, and all the traders say the same thing,” Hajj Samir told the news portal. “We’ve been making trips to Baghdad to get more, and they buy all of it.”
Another 37-year-old trader who has worked out of Mosul told a similar story of selling off his precious metals to those connected to the group.
“We don’t ask why they’re buying so much,” said the trader, Osman Ahmed.
“But even silver in small shops outside the city is sold out.”
Ahmed said the speed with which they were buying up precious metal stocks was forcing traders such as himself to travel to cities in Kurdish-controlled territory to renew their stocks.
Zakaria Ahmed, a Mosul resident not related to Osman, said US-led airstrikes had taken their toll on IS’s currency plans, noting they had made it difficult for the militants to transport valuables.
Despite the setbacks, Zakaria, whose brother is reportedly an IS official, said the currency plan was still coming along.
“It is still in an ongoing process to be released,” he told McClatchy by phone.
The desire to create their own currency has also extended to the battlefield, with militants reportedly stripping copper wiring from electric transmission cables and other sources to gather materials for the coins.
The Islamic militant group notorious for extreme violence and war crimes has gone to great lengths to establish a caliphate with all the requisite state institutions over a piece of territory roughly the size of Belgium.
Relying on funds brought in from taxes, stolen oil and gas and organized crime, IS has, in the words of Jordanian journalist Raed Omari, “undergone the quickest transformation to statehood in modern history.”