The drive for Bitcoin donations. The link appears in orange under the date: "Click here to donate Bitcoins to the [Akhbar al-Muslimin] website – do not donate from zakāt funds" (Akhbar al-Muslimin, November 27, 2017).
- Asking for donations: under every article there is a link reading, “Click here to donate Bitcoins to the [Akhbar al-Muslimin] website – do not donate from zakāt funds” [i.e., funds earmarked for charity, one of the Five Pillars of Islam] (Akhbar al-Muslimin, November 27, 2017).
- Clicking on the link opens a page for Bitcoin donations called coingate.com:
The coingate.com home page
The Akhbar al-Muslimin website
- The Akhbar al-Muslimin website is affiliated with ISIS. It has been active since 2015. In mid-2017 it ceased operations, in ITIC assessment because of the blow dealt to ISIS in Syria. In November 2017 it reappeared with a new address, http://ou7zytv3h2yaosqq.stopisis.top. The site publishes reports and pictures about attacks carried out by ISIS operatives. It contains relatively updated information, although less than a year ago, probably because of the damage done to ISIS’s propaganda machine (the website is updated every few days, while six months ago it was updated daily).
The homepage of the Akhbar al-Muslimin website, November 30, 2017. It has ISIS materials, including ISIS claims of responsibility from its Amaq News Agency, and a link to the ISIS weekly al-Nabā’.
Articles and photos on the Akhbar al-Muslimin website. Right: documentation of the ISIS attack on the village of al-Ashara, north of the Abu Kamal. Left: ISIS’s morality police (al-hisbah) in the Yarmouk refugee camp south of Damascus burn books and magazines considered incompatible with the organization’s ideology (Akhbar al-Muslimin, November 23, 2017).
Summary and ITIC assessment
- During the past year there were reports about the use ISIS and other terrorist organizations make of Bitcoins. According to the reports, the advantages of Bitcoins are the following: they is anonymous, readily available as a virtual currency and can easily be transferred anywhere around the globe (including to and from remote areas in Afghanistan, Yemen and Africa) without exposure. That leads terrorist organizations to make extensive use of them. In effect, the use of Bitcoins makes it possible to transfer large sums without the oversight of banks, avoiding international regulations against money laundering (thecipherbrief.com, a website dealing with money laundering, June 11, 2017).
The drive on the Akhbar al-Muslimin website is further evidence of ISIS’s severe financial hardship, following the loss of its economic assets (mainly the oil and gas fields) and the collapse of the Islamic State. Its propaganda machine was also damaged, which in ITIC assessment is in urgent need of funds. The Bitcoins donated may not be used only by the Akhbar al-Muslimin website (as claimed by the site) but possibly for other, broader purposes, including rehabilitating ISIS’s propaganda machine and funding terrorist attacks abroad.
 The choice of an address containing the phrase "stop ISIS" is, in ITIC assessment, intended to mislead. It is aimed to prevent the site from being closed by hackers or international security agencies. ↑