Under cover of darkness, 50 tons of gold worth some $2.1 billion was lifted by US helicopters from the al-Baghouz area in Syria’s Deir Ezzor according to state run news agency Sana.
The gold was transported to the U.S. military base in Kobani and then left for the United States with a portion of it given to the Kurdish led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which have been fighting ISIS.
Sana claims a deal was struck which spared hundreds of ISIS field leaders and experts in return for the gold, citing unnamed local sources.
Voice of America (VoA) previously reported that “the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), told VOA that it had confirmation from the ground that IS was holding 40 tons of gold bars in Syria.”
“This gold was stolen from the Central Bank of Mosul, from the economy in Syria that was under the control of IS, and from the selling of Syrian and Iraqi antiquities, like smuggled antiquities from Palmyra that were sold to smugglers and traders through Turkey,” Rami Abdulrahman, head of SOHR, said.
It’s unclear how many ISIS fighters were let go, with no official confirmation of this alleged deal as it stands, but SOHR previously said:
“The U.S.-led coalition forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) deliberately do not target the areas under the control of the ISIL terrorists and commanders in Eastern Euphrates in Deir el-Zour as they are trying to locate this treasure by forcing the ISIL militants to speak about its location after surrendering.”
With the treasure now seemingly located and transported out of the country, the final assault has begun with 15,000 SDF forces moving into the northeast Syrian village of Baghouz.
An evacuation of civilians was previously underway, with 50,000 mostly women and children streaming out of Baghouz since December.
An estimated 3,000 ISIS fighters are determined to fight to death according to SDF, with the last battle now unfolding.
Previous reports have suggested that ISIS raised funds in bitcoin with Europol stating they had asked for bitcoin and Zcash donations.
Reported crypto amounts, however, have been very small with ISIS at its height making most of its revenue from clandestine oil sales or looting of newly occupied areas.
The stupendous hotness of the region would have made crypto mining very difficult, with any bitcoin coming from sparse donations due to the public nature of the blockchain.
There are suggestions some of these donations may have been used to buy hosting for ISIS affiliated websites, but most of their funds were clearly held in gold or in cash.
That gold has now been seized with it unclear whether US is to hold it or return it to Mosul. Just as it is unclear how the peace can now be won if the war is indeed over.