PETALING JAYA - Forget ideals and ideology, the militant movement in Iraq and Syria is all about money.
Sitting on a pile of more than US$2bil (S$2.4bil) and having seized one of the largest oil wells in the region, the militants are even selling oil to the very people that they are fighting against.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), now renamed the Islamic State, has become the most affluent militant group in the world.
International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) political science lecturer Dr Ishtiaq Hossain said Isil is believed to be running a well-oiled cash-churning machine with profit gushing in from a multitude of sectors to keep the expanding operations running.
"Different figures are being quoted over how much Isil currently has, but most sources say the group is worth between one and two billion dollars," he said.
Ishtiaq, however, stressed that the touted finances remained speculative, as concrete evidence of its assets could not be obtained.
Isil, estimated by the international media to have about 10,000 to 15,000 fighters, needs strong financial backing to proceed with its goal of conquering the areas around Iraq and Syria.
The group is now earning money from oil fields and power plants which it took control in Iraq and Syria.
Ishtiaq said Isil is also alleged to have been receiving funds from private Gulf Arab donors.
Among the largest and most lucrative oil fields under the control of Isil are Iraq's Ujil oil field, in the northern province of Salah al-Din and Syria's al-Omar field in the east of the country, which the militants seized on July 3.
Isil took over the Ujil field last month and is believed to be selling the oil to private buyers, and to the very same Shia-ruling Syrian government that it is fighting to overthrow.
To continue its fight, Isil has gathered a large stock of arms, ammunition and military equipment including United States' armoured vehicles taken as spoils of war from the American-trained Iraqi army.
"Some members of the Iraqi military who abandoned their positions also left Humvees and arms when they withdrew from Mosul and other areas," said Ishtiaq.