ISIS Raid Netted Stolen Treasure Trove of Ancient Artifacts

A special forces strike on a senior ISIS official’s compound not only killed him and snared his wife—but turned up a hoard of looted antiquities, a U.S. official revealed Tuesday night.
On an almost moonless night last May, U.S. Special Operations Forces hit the Syrian compound of a man known as Abu Sayyaf.

He had been called the chief financial officer of the self-proclaimed Islamic State,  the “emir of oil and gas,” overseeing what amounted in 2014 and early 2015 to some $1 billion in smuggling, extortion, and “taxation” revenues for the criminal empire widely known as ISIS.

“The mission was all about gathering intelligence,” a U.S. official told The Daily Beast at the time. And not the least important source of that intel, after Abu Sayyaf died in the fracas, was his widow, who’s been held indefinitely in U.S. custody in Iraq.

What was not made public until now, however, was the extent to which a treasure trove of ancient artifacts found with Abu Sayyaf also contained vital clues that could help break open ISIS looting and smuggling operations. Thousands of archeological sites dating back to the days of the Bible have been laid waste.

The special ops guys found extraordinary bits of sculpture, gold jewelry, and coins—like some treasure hoarded by Ali Baba. The artifacts, which were turned over to the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad on July 15, were exquisitely portable. Perfect for smuggling with minimum risk and maximum profit.

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