The terrorist group "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) has rarely been out of the headlines in the past year for its capture of crucial territory in Iraq and Syria, together with its execution of several western hostages, but could financial pressures undermine its ambitions -- and existence?
Also known as Islamic State, ISIL or just IS, the militant Islamist group has taken over swathes of Iraq and Syria, proclaiming a "caliphate" – an Islamic state ruled by one leader. To help its turbulent and bloody rise it has built up various and illicit sources of revenue.
From the selling "poor-quality oil" stolen from captured fields and refineries and "donations" from wealthy benefactors in the Gulf, to smuggling, stolen harvests and selling cultural antiquities on the black market, the IS economy is far from standardized.
Because IS' revenues come largely from criminal activity, its finances are notoriously opaque. According to research published in February by inter-governmental body, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), as well as extortion, the group also received donations from wealthy benefactors in the Gulf and from fundraising through "modern communication networks."
On top of this, the theft of cash held at seized banks gave ISIS access to an estimated half a $500 million in late 2014, a "significant portion of its wealth from controlling (these) bank branches," the FATF believed.
Ransom demands vary from victim to victim. IS demanded $200 million for two Japanese hostages believed to be later murdered by the group but one woman from the Kurdish Yazidis ethnic group was freed after her family agreed to pay a ransom of $3,000, the FATF reported.