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Did Islamic State Militants Use Bitcoin To Fund Their English-Language Website?

A Bitcoin (virtual currency) paper wallet with QR codes and coins in an illustration picture taken at La Maison du Bitcoin in Paris in July
A Bitcoin (virtual currency) paper wallet with QR codes and coins in an illustration picture taken at La Maison du Bitcoin in Paris in July

Reports on social media on October 13 suggested that Islamic State militants may be using the software-based, online payment system bitcoin to pay for an official English-language website used to spread propaganda about the extremist group.

A user on Reddit's Bitcoin forum claims that the website,, was hosted by a Swedish server that accepts bitcoin as payment. The website asks visitors to help support the upkeep of the site by making donations in bitcoin.

YourServer said that it had terminated the account associated with the Islamic State website on the morning of October 13.

"With respect to our Terms and conditions our strict policy is that using services of for any illegal activities is strictly prohibited and we guarantee you that our team is putting all reasonable efforts in order to ensure this," YourServer told RFE/RL in an e-mail.

"On topic of this particular event: we want to underline the fact that our support team received information about possible breach only this morning and it took only 30 minutes to investigate the case and act accordingly, that is: instant termination of our services for that customer."

The ".is" domain used by the website is an Icelandic top-level domain. On October 13, the website appeared to be offline, and there are reports that Iceland's top-level domain regulator, ISNIC, shut it down on October 12:

Islamic State supporters said that they hoped the website would return shortly:

The website was used to host Islamic State documents, videos, and audio recordings in English, including a video of captive British journalist John Cantlie.

A Whois search for the website showed that the domain is registered under the name of Azym Abdullah, who is associated with five pro-Islamic State websites. The Whois records list the website title as " Khilafah #IS | Media Releases from Islamic State."

The claims that the Islamic State could be using bitcoin to help fund a website come after reports in July that a PDF document suggesting that jihadis could use bitcoin to fund their operations was uploaded to a Wordpress blog. The document, entitled "Bitcoin and the Charity of Violent Physical Struggle," explains that bitcoin is safe and could even be compliant with Shari'a law.

The article claims that the use of bitcoin would make it harder for law-enforcement authorities to track transactions made by jihadis, enabling supporters of Islamic State to send donations more easily:

"This allows our brothers stuck outside of the [Lands of Islam] to avoid government taxes along with secretly fund [sic] the Mujahideen with no legal danger upon them."

Beyond bitcoin, jihadi groups in Syria have made use of anonymous electronic, cashless payment systems and social networks to fund operations. Members of North Caucasian jihadi faction Seyfullakh Shishani's jamaat, which is part of Jabhat al-Nusra and is based in Aleppo, have solicited donations via social networks using Russia's Qiwi online payment system. In January, Moscow cracked down on anonymous online payments in a bid to fight terrorism.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world.


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