US increases sanctions to fight ISIS financing

Some ISIS chapters can be fought using military force, but much of its clandestine activity can only be fought using economic warfare, or sometimes cyber warfare.

ISIS militants who surrendered to the Afghan government are presented to media in Jalalabad, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan November 17, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS/PARWIZ)
ISIS militants who surrendered to the Afghan government are presented to media in Jalalabad, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan November 17, 2019
(photo credit: REUTERS/PARWIZ)

The US Treasury Department on Monday night imposed sanctions on a network of five Islamic State (ISIS) financial facilitators located in Indonesia, Syria and Turkey who are supporting the extremist jihadist group in Syria.

Though there have been many previous rounds of sanctions, the move on Monday night had special significance in including new Indonesians, who have received less attention, as well as new Turks, at a sensitive time of relations between Washington and Ankara.

Despite losing its hold on territory in Syria and Iraq years ago, ISIS has rallied recently with terror attacks in Syria, Egypt, Israel and elsewhere and maintains branches in dozens of countries.

Some ISIS branches can be fought using military force, but much of its clandestine activity can only be fought using economic warfare, or cyber warfare.

As ISIS has morphed, the West has given more attention even to distant branches, such as in Indonesia.

A statement accused those designated for sanctions of playing a key role in facilitating the travel of extremists to Syria and other areas where ISIS operates.

In addition, the Biden administration said those designated for sanctions are conducting financial transfers to support the terror group’s efforts in Syria-based displaced persons camps by collecting funds in Indonesia and Turkey.

The statement added that some of the funds were used to pay for smuggling children out of the camps and delivering them to ISIS foreign fighters as potential recruits.

This announcement coincided with the 16th meeting of the Counter ISIS Finance Group of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

The United States, Italy, and Saudi Arabia co-lead the CIFG — consisting of nearly 70 countries and international organizations — and coordinate efforts against ISIS financial support networks worldwide.

“Today, Treasury has taken action to expose and disrupt an international facilitation network that has supported ISIS recruitment, including the recruitment of vulnerable children in Syria,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson.

“The United States, as part of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, is committed to denying ISIS the ability to raise and move funds across multiple jurisdictions.”

ISIS sympathizers in over 40 countries have sent money to ISIS-linked individuals in these camps in support of ISIS’s future resurgence, warned the US.

Al-Hawl is the largest displaced persons camp in northeast Syria, holding up to 70,000 refugees most of whom are women and children.

In al-Hawl alone, ISIS supporters have received up to $20,000 per month via hawala, an informal transfer mechanism, with most of those funds originating outside Syria or passing through neighboring countries like Turkey.

Additionally, since 2019, ISIS has smuggled its associates out of al-Hawl largely to Idlib, Deir ez-Zor, and Raqqa in Syria.

Dwi Dahlia Susanti has been an ISIS financial facilitator since at least 2017, and has assisted other ISIS members with money transfers involving individuals in Indonesia, Turkey, and Syria, said the statement.

In late 2017, Susanti helped her husband deliver nearly $4,000 and weapons to an ISIS leader. The statement said that Susanti diverted $500 of these funds for ISIS supporters in her own network.

As of early 2021, Susanti had also facilitated funding transfers from Indonesia to Syria in order to provide funds to individuals in displaced person camps.

In mid-2019, Rudi Heryadi advised an extremist associate about potential travel to ISIS-dominated areas, including in Afghanistan, Egypt and other parts of Africa, and Yemen, said the US.

Heryadi also asked for donations for travelers and their families. On June 24, 2020, Indonesian authorities convicted Heryadi on terrorism charges, said the statement.

ISIS facilitator Ari Kardian was also sanctioned after being previously charged by Indonesian authorities for facilitating the travel of Indonesians to Syria to join ISIS.