In an attempt to re-grow its networks in order to implement more brutal terrorist operations than before to affirm its presence inside Syrian territory, ISIS and its terrorist cells began practicing financial extortion by intimidating to raise funds to finance its operations and re-establish its networks, threatening to resort to violence to implement its plan on a larger scale, especially in the governorates of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor.
This is in addition of using trenches and tunnels dug with primitive tools to smuggle its members from Al-Hawl camp and to carry out mass killings inside the camp.
Despite the defeat of the terrorist organization ISIS in Syria two years ago, the organization continues to terrorize people, especially in the northeast region, using financial extortion against business owners to finance its operations and re-grow its networks.
U.S. military ground operations in northwestern Syria have targeted top ISIS leaders, most notably Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who killed himself during an October 2019 raid near the border with Turkey that was carried out by the elite Delta Force.
His successor, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, detonated himself with an explosion during a similar raid in February this year.
ISIS was defeated in Syria in 2019 and since then, its leaders have gone into hiding to prevent being targeted by U.S. forces.
However, ISIS fighters maintain a low-level insurgency in Iraq and Syria, and the group continues to inspire followers in the West to commit violent attacks.
The terrorist organization’s cells used various methods to communicate their demands after determining the targets, as the victims say that the group relies mainly on messaging applications, especially “WhatsApp”, which uses end-to-end encryption and provides the option of anonymity of those who work with ISIS, but It also delivers written notices stamped with the group’s logo to the homes of its targets, an arguably more effective intimidation tactic.
Ransom requests usually include the name of the target, the amount requested in US dollars, and where the payment should be delivered, in addition to messages containing clear and explicit warnings to deliver the money quickly and discreetly to avoid punishment.
Failure to comply with those demands has led to ISIS attacks on businesses, kidnappings and targeted killings, and ISIS reportedly destroyed several oil wells in January when officials refused to pay.
For months, ISIS has been using the threat of violence to operate extensive protection rackets in Raqqa and Deir Ezzor governorates. The inability of local authorities to provide sufficient protection from ISIS has left many people with no choice but to pay.
ISIS relies on its extensive knowledge of local communities to set targets and determine the size of the tribute, usually targeting professionals such as doctors and pharmacists, and business owners including prominent farmers, herders, shopkeepers, traders and investors.
The scale and frequency of these forced payments varies. Some of the group’s victims said they pay between $700 and $1,500 annually, while investors overseeing oil fields in eastern Deir Ezzor reportedly pay more than $5,000 per well per month.
Estimating ISIS’s earnings from these extortions is difficult, but media reports suggest the group is generating several million dollars a year this way. While far less than the $80 million a month the group was generating in 2015, it is more than enough to make the group dangerous. ISIS’s territorial defeat in 2019 reduced its state-like financial responsibilities, and its current cash flow is more than sufficient to finance its hit-and-run operations and ensure its survival.
Moreover, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (Rojava) has found a network of trenches and tunnels under al-Hawl camp, east of al-Hasakah.
The security sources said these trenches and tunnels were used by sleeper cells loyal to the ISIS terrorist organization to smuggle persons and carry out murders and assassination attempts.
A video recording inside the camp showed how tunnels were dug with primitive tools, covered with metal and wooden panels for camouflage, amid a group of tents inhabited by displaced Syrians and Iraqi refugees.
Escaping Incidents are on the rise in the camp, which houses about 56,000, most of whom are displaced Syrians and Iraqi refugees.
The security source and director of al-Hol camp, Hamrin Hassan, said that sleeper cells inside and outside the center are linked to human smuggling networks loyal to ISIS.
Hassan explained that they communicate with the terrorist organization through social media platforms, and the first destination after the escape is the Idlib governorate or other areas in northern Syria under Turkish influence.
After that, the same networks transport the escapees from al-Hol into Turkish territory and from there to their homelands, often done in exchange for large sums of money.
Hassan believes that the al-Hol camp is an international issue, asserting that concerned countries must take quick, drastic decisions and measures to provide appropriate solutions.
The official warned against not solving this issue, indicating that these families’ presence on the border might spread and increase ISIS danger inside and outside the camp