The interrogation of a trusted messenger for the insurgent Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, led Iraqi commanders to a treasure trove of information on the terror group and its staggering $2 billion in finances, the British newspaper the Guardian
"He said to us, 'You don't realize what you have done,'" an intelligence official quoted the courier as saying two days before Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, fell to ISIS, according to the Guardian. "Then he said: 'Mosul will be an inferno this week.'"
The information – unlocked with 160 computer flash sticks – included names of fighters and commanders, code words, initials of sources inside ministries, phone numbers, emails and an extraordinary accounting of its rich war bank.
"We were all amazed, and so were the Americans," the official told the Guardian. "None of us had known most of this information."
"Before Mosul, their total cash and assets were $875 million," the official added.
"Afterwards, with the money they robbed from banks and the value of the military supplies they looted, they could add another $1.5 billion to that."
CIA and others were still analyzing the computer data when ISIS stormed through
northern and central Iraq, seizing Mosul and Tikrit and threatening Kirkuk as three divisions of Iraqi soldiers fled.
On Sunday, ISIS published photographs apparently showing its massacre of
captured Iraqi soldiers.
According to the Guardian, the revealed ISIS secrets included the meticulous process by which the terrorists chose their leaders – all veterans of the insurgency against U.S. forces nearly a decade ago.
"They had itemized everything," the source said, "down to the smallest detail."
Officials were also stunned by the group's financial acumen. It raked in cash from the oilfields of eastern Syria – which ISIS commandeered in late 2012, though it has since sold some of those fields back to the Syrian regime – and from smuggling raw materials and priceless artifacts from archaeological digs.
In less than three years, the extremists morphed from a ragtag band of militants into the most cash-rich terror group in the world.
"They had taken $36M from al-Nabuk alone [an area in the Qalamoun mountains west of Damascus]. The antiquities there are up to 8,000 years old," the intelligence official said.
"Before this, the Western officials had been asking us where they had gotten some of their money from, $50,000 here, or $20,000 there. It was peanuts. Now they know and we know.
"They had done this all themselves. There was no state actor at all behind them, which we had long known. They don't need one," the intelligence official said.
Another Iraqi official vowed: "We will eventually find them."
"We knew they had infiltrated the ministries, and the most frustrating thing about that flash [stick] was it only had initials. We are focusing on the initials that had the annotation 'valuable' next to them."
Other names were less important, marked with the dismissive: "lazy," "undecided" or "needs monitoring."
"Now we have to catch up with them," the official told the Guardian.
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