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FBI Warns Collectors Not to Buy 'Blood Treasures' from ISIS

by David Yee, published

In an issuance of clear guidance, the FBI released warnings to both dealers and collectors this week about the legal dangers of purchasing artifacts stolen by the Islamic State to fund their radicalized movement:

This comes after several weeks of reports of ISIS destroying cultural heritage sites, claiming them as idolatrous sites. But continuing in the tradition of the Taliban in Afghanistan, these actions have not been wholly noble or pious in action--but used to cover up the extent of looting of artifacts to sell on the black market.

The FBI also confirmed the accusation that ISIS had interrogated Professor Khaled al-Asaad for about a month before publicly beheading him. It is believed that al-Assad never revealed the locations of the specific antiquities that ISIS was looking to sell.

From a tactical standpoint, cheaper oil prices are forcing ISIS to find different ways to fund their insurgency -- which in the past has included direct contributions from wealthy patrons, selling oil and gas, trafficking drugs and sex-slaves, extortion, and oddly by

opening Internet cafes.

While not as "glamorous" as Indiana Jones-type antiquities theft, the remarkable embracement of the Internet has increased the Islamic State's ability to fund-raise through crowd sourcing outside of the immediate Middle East.

But all of these secular funding measures lead to one inevitable reality: money is still the primary god of their religion, regardless of their self-proclaimed piety and purism of radical Islam.

U.S. Special Forces have been able to at least partially contain some of these antiquities from reaching international markets. With the May raid on now-deceased ISIS finance chief Abu Sayyaf in Syria, a significant trove of treasures were recovered belonging to the Syrian and Iraqi governments. This raid also gave the U.S. better intelligence on the intentions of selling these treasures for funding.

Every small bit helps in the war against ISIS, and cutting off their funding will eventually starve out any organization. It's up to the wealthy in the west to not succumb to the temptations of purchasing these "blood treasures," to do their part in ensuring that ISIS is deprived funding.


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