ISIS 'Releases 2015 Budget Projections' of $2bn with $250m Surplus

ISIS tank
Militant Islamist fighters on a tank take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province, June 30, 2014. Stringer/Reuters

The jihadist group Islamic State (ISIS) has estimated its 2015 budget at $2 billion, allegedly covering costs for wages of fighters and compensation of dead militants' families, Iraqi religious cleric Sheikh Abu Saad al-Ansari told Qatari news publication Al-Araby on Monday.

According to al-Ansari ISIS fighters are left with a budget surplus of $250 million which will now be "diverted towards the war effort," with an ISIS sponsored lending bank supposedly expected to open in Mosul, northern Iraq.

The funds ISIS has at its disposal have become a point of debate over the last year, after International Business Times declared them the "world's richest terrorist organisation" following Kurdish reports that the group had overran and seized hundreds of millions of pounds from a bank in Mosul, northern Iraq.

Subsequently the Financial Times dismissed the heist as "the biggest bank robbery that never happened," after locals told the newspaper the bank in question had not been raided.

Newsweek's own estimates of ISIS's income after a comprehensive investigation into the group's fundraising activities in November were around $6 million a day from looting, taxes, kidnapping, oil and black market exports and private funding from Gulf sympathisers.

The latest figure, valuing ISIS's budget at $2 billion, is "plausible" according to London anti-radicalisation think tank the Quilliam Foundation, however most likely "untrue."

"Several announcements like this have been made over the last few months, some trying to make ISIS look good, some trying to make them look bad," Charlie Winter, a researcher from the Quilliam Foundation said.

"The announcement is interesting if nothing else, however it has not appeared on any of the official channels which ISIS use to put out statements such as these," Winter added. "It is puzzling for such a secretive organisation to make information such as this public."

"Having said that, it could well be a leak from inside ISIS, but there is a good chance it is not true," Winter said.

Currently ISIS online media have experienced a shift in direction, frequently posting content of the services allegedly on offer in English to militants who choose to join ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria, in a bid to strengthen their claim to being a legitimate state.

The Aamaq news agency which frequently reports from ISIS held territories published a video last month of road works going on in the ISIS-held city of Raqqa, showing masked workers cleaning the streets and repairing sewers.

The channel has previously featured a video of "traffic management under the rule of Islamic State" allegedly taken in Aleppo, in a bid to show normal life goes on inside ISIS-held cities.

Social media channels have also contributed to a propaganda campaign, attempting to present the normal aspects of life under ISIS rule.

ISIS affiliated accounts have previously also boasted about the organisation sponsoring free bus rides between Iraq and Syria as well as education for girls, neither of which has been replicated by official ISIS sources.

By contrast, in an article featured in French daily newspaper Le Figaro last month, Western ISIS fighters had complained in featured extracts from their letters home of being "fed up to the back teeth" with cleaning and moving dead bodies, while one took issue with his iPod not working in the caliphate.

A report by monitor Iraq Body Count last week put the civillian death toll in Iraq in 2014 at 17,049, the worst violence since 2006.