WASHINGTON - A US commando raid in Syria last month that killed a senior figure from the Islamic State group produced a wealth of information about the jihadists' finances and leadership, the New York Times reported Tuesday, citing US officials.
Material seized in the May 16 raid against Abu Sayyaf, believed to be the group's top financier, already helped US forces track down and bomb another IS leader in eastern Syria on May 31, unnamed officials told the Times.
US government officials believe an influential lieutenant, Abu Hamid, was killed in that air strike, the Times reported, but the IS group has not yet confirmed his death.
An estimated four to seven terabytes of data was extracted from laptops, cell phones and other items recovered in the operation, the newspaper said. The information included insights into how the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, seeks to avoid being monitored by US-led coalition forces.
When the IS chief meets regional leaders at his headquarters in Raqqa, each militant has to hand over their mobile phone to a driver to avoid revealing their location to Western spy services, the paper wrote.
"I'll just say from that raid we're learning quite a bit that we did not know before," a senior State Department official told reporters in a teleconference last week.
US intelligence agencies declined to comment on the report.
At least one informer "deep inside" the IS group played a pivotal role in tracking Abu Sayyaf before the raid, a military official told the Times.
US officials believe Abu Sayyaf was involved in kidnapping activities and oversaw oil smuggling and financing for the group.
Material found in the raid showed that about half of the IS group's oil profits is allocated to a "general operating budget" while the remainder is divided between maintaining oil production facilities and paying workers, officials told the Times.
The workers are fully paid employees for the IS group and not conscripted locals as previously believed, officials said.
The US presidential envoy to the coalition fighting the IS group, retired US general John Allen, said in Qatar last week that the raid uncovered "substantial information on Daesh (IS) financial operations."
The new information gathered indicated that one figure, Fadel al-Hayali, also known as Abu Mutaz, may wield more power in the IS organisation than previously suspected, according to the paper.
US Army Delta commandos detained Sayyaf's wife in the raid but were not able to capture Abu Sayyaf alive as planned.