The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has taken to selling chickens and eggs in the streets of Libya’s Sirte at a “very cheap price” as its cash reserves continue to be damaged by instability in Libya and the U.S.-led coalition campaign against the group in Iraq and Syria, according to a media report.
“When ISIS took over Sirte, they seized many properties, including farms, and some of these are very large chicken farms,” a resident of Sirte who fled the city, named only as Ali, told Middle East Eye.
“Relatives tell me ISIS people can now be seen standing in the streets in their black outfits with their faces covered, selling both the eggs and the chickens.”
“And they are selling the chickens for a very cheap price of just one or two dinars,” he added.
ISIS is besieged by various international parties in Iraq, Syria and Libya and can only generate revenue from taxing the residents living under its control or through illicit means, such as the sale of antiquities captured in the countries it has swept across, natural resources from its captured oil fields and its sex slave trade, according to the American weekly Newsweek magazine.
Banks have closed in Sirte and there is no telephone coverage in the city. The lack of access to funds and ISIS’ control of resources in Sirte has created a black market trade in the coastal city.
Another indication that IS finances were stretched was a series of demands for rent, the man told Middle East Eye.
Shopkeepers were being forced to pay, despite owning their shops, as well as 10 Libyan dinars (USD7.35) per week was being charged for street cleaning and rubbish collection services. Residents, too, have received demands for rent.
“There are some luxury beach apartments on the coast of Sirte, which used to belong to (late Libyan leader Muammar) Gaddafi, but where local people have lived since 2011, and IS visited people there and demanded rent money,” he said.
On the other side, ISIS publicly state that the smoking of cigarettes is illegal, punished by flogging, but sell the product themselves to make money from citizens of the city.
Some residents travel to the nearby region of Al-Jufra to buy cigarettes for normal Libyan prices because of the extortionate rates under ISIS’ backdoor market, a man claiming to be a resident of Sirte, in his thirties, tells Newsweek.
“[Al-Jufra] is the closest city to Sirte. It’s the ordinary prices in all of the cities except Sirte,” the man says.
“If they capture you with a cigarette for first time, you will be flogged, second time, flogged, third time, maybe killed.”