UN targets oil trucks to cut off Islamist revenues

UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) - A UN report is recommending the seizure of all oil tanker trucks leaving Islamist-controlled territory in Iraq and Syria to cut off millions of dollars from crude sales now bankrolling the jihadists.

The UN's Al-Qaeda Monitoring Team is also proposing an embargo on flights taking off or landing in territory seized by the Islamic State (IS) group and its allies to prevent them from moving assets and possibly weapons.

The report obtained by AFP on Monday will be discussed at an upcoming meeting of the Security Council called to follow up on a resolution aimed at choking off financing to IS fighters and the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front in Syria.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will be chairing the special meeting on Wednesday to ramp up international efforts to confront the Islamist threat from Iraq and Syria.

The 15-member council in August adopted a resolution to cut off sources of financing and the flow of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria, warning countries that trade in oil with the Islamists they could face sanctions.

IS earns an estimated US$850,000 (S$1,103,189) to US$1.65 million per day from oil sales through private middlemen who operate a fleet of trucks through smuggling routes, the report said.

While it did not specify which smuggling routes should be targeted, Turkey has been singled out as a major transit point for the oil deliveries, with trucks often returning to Iraq or Syria with refined products.

"Sanctions measures cannot prevent this trade entirely," the report said but it added that "disrupting the tanker trucks available to ISIL and its allied smuggling networks (is) a point of vulnerability." The eight-member team proposed that the Security Council ask all-member states bordering Islamist-controlled territory to "promptly seize all oil tanker-trucks and their loads that originate or seek entry into" those areas.

The experts also identified a growing risk from the plundering of artefacts, especially from archaeological sites and proposed a worldwide ban on the trading of antiquities from Syria and Iraq.

IS has earned cash by taxing looters of the art objects, but the report did not give an estimate for the earnings from this trade.