The Islamic State is pulling in almost $200 million dollars a year from the sale of stolen antiquities from Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
Nearly 4,500 archaeological sites in the region are located in IS held areas in Iraq and Syria, fighters hold sway, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said.
“The profit derived by the Islamists from the illicit trade in antiquities and archaeological treasures is estimated at U.S. $150-200 million per year,” he said in a letter to the U.N. Security Council, Reuters reports.
IS leaders have taken to online auction sites such as eBay to sell the looted artifacts to collectors worldwide, according to Reuters. The artifacts are also reportedly moved thru black market networks in Turkey and Europe.
The U.S.-led air campaign has targeted the group’s illicit oil smuggling efforts as well as its cash reserved located near IS strongholds in Raqqa and Mosul, putting a significant dent in the group’s ability to finance its operations.
The terror group has traditionally laid waste to historically and culturally significant sites in their march across Syria and Iraq. Priceless antiquities in ancient cities like Palymra in Syria or Mosul in Iraq were damaged or destroyed by IS fighters, deeming them offensive to their devout sub sect of Islam.