ISIL heading toward cybercrime amid territorial losses: NATO official

ISIL heading toward cybercrime amid territorial losses: NATO official

Sevil Erkuş - BRUSSELS
ISIL heading toward cybercrime amid territorial losses: NATO official

Iraqis fleeing their homes in Mosul’s old city carry their belongings as they leave the fighting area on March 30, due to the ongoing battles between government forces and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has changed strategy and its militants have begun to relocate to countries such as Libya and engage in cybercrime as the group has lost land and revenue streams in Syria and Iraq, according to a NATO official.

“Half of the financial revenue of ISIL has disappeared as the caliphate has shrunk. They have lost their ability to tax people. They have lost their ability to commercialize oil sales, which were a major source of revenue. They have lost their ability to export arms and the rest,” a senior NATO official told the Hürriyet Daily News during ongoing meetings in Brussels. 

“So they are increasingly looking at organized crime. ISIL may soon have to resort to cybercrime, like hackers that try to steal money from banks and credit cards, in order to raise revenue,” the official added. 

The jihadist group will be “more active in virtual space amid the collapse of the caliphate in the physical space,” according to the NATO official. 

The second aspect of the evolution of the group is relocation as it is ejected from Iraq and Syria as a consequence of the international offensive. Only half of its operatives have remained in Mosul. We are tracking where these people are going,” the official said.

The group has focused on Libya, with ISIL operatives taking up positions away from the coast, the official said, adding that they were looking for places like Somalia, making alliances with Boko Haram in Nigeria and establishing branches in Afghanistan, the official said, noting that the group has connections with 19 different countries.

The new challenge for the international community will be to prevent ISIL from consolidating its caliphate in another ungoverned area, the NATO official said.

NATO will use its capacity for defense to help local forces thwart the group’s relocation strategy, said the official, referring to the alliance’s work with Tunisia.

Many security experts think that ISIL will become a virtual organization like companies that only exist online and operate without offices or any infrastructure, said the official.

“Some speculate that ISIL will move to a virtual network and inspire and recruit online,” the official said, underlining that the group will continue its existence in a different form as it has proved to adapt to circumstances in the past. 

As such, the global community must eliminate ISIL’s base in Syria and Iraq and attempt to prevent its evolution as much as possible, the official said.