WASHINGTON — A blacklisted top Islamic State financier was killed June 16 in an airstrike by the U.S.-led, anti-ISIS coalition inside one of the group’s final strongholds along the Euphrates River in eastern Syria, the Pentagon said Friday.
Syrian native Fawaz Muhammad Jubayr al-Rawi was described by U.S. officials as an ISIS finance emir who used his financial business to fund terrorism, including the payment of foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, in a statement released by the Operation Inherent Resolve coalition. Al-Rawi was killed in an attack targeting him in Abu Kamal, a city near Iraq’s border that has been controlled by the terrorist group since 2014, according to the statement.
Al-Rawi and his company, Hanifa Currency Exchange, were sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in December 2016 for supporting ISIS. It was the first time the United States directly sanctioned ISIS’s financial operations, according to a Treasury Department statement at the time.
The United States believes al-Rawi opened his money services business in Abu Kamal in 2010 and used the company to exchange currency between Syria and Turkey. When ISIS entered Abu Kamal, he facilitated the group’s weapons and ammunition buys in the area through established contacts, according to the Treasury Department.
The Pentagon said he then pledged loyalty to ISIS and began helping the group store and move money to fund its vast network of foreign fighters who, at the time, had been flocking to fight for the group in Iraq and Syria. He additionally provided his personally owned farm near Abu Kamal for senior ISIS leaders, including commanders and fighters, to hold weekly meetings, the Pentagon said.
Killing al-Rawi should “disrupt ISIS’s financial networks” and “restrict the terror group’s ability to move resources and export terrorism,” the coalition statement read.
Al-Rawi was one of many top ISIS leaders who are believed to be living and operating in the Euphrates River Valley south of Raqqa, ISIS’ self-proclaimed capital, which is under siege by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. U.S. officials have said most of ISIS’ leadership fled Raqqa in recent months to other cities along the river, including Deir al-Zour, Mayadin and Abu Khamal.
Coalition airstrikes have killed at least four high-ranking ISIS leaders in that area in recent months, including al-Rawi.
“That is still ISIS-held territory,” said U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition. “We know they have resources, particularly financial resources, in and around there. We will continue to strike in these areas when we have targets. ISIS has no sanctuary wherever they hold ground.”