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ISIS struggles with budget crunch

BEIRUT - The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group is suffering from a shortage of cash.

It has cut salaries across the region it calls a caliphate. And it's asking residents of the group's stronghold in Syria to pay utility bills in black-market American dollars. The militants are also now releasing detainees for a cut-rate price of $500 a person.

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The group -- which once bragged about minting its own currency -- is having trouble meeting expenses, thanks to coalition airstrikes and other measures that have eroded millions of dollars from its finances since last fall. Last year both the U.S.-led coalition, as well as Russian fighters, began targeting their oil production capabilities and cash stores.

Those circumstances include the dramatic drop in global prices for oil - once a key source of income. Additionally, the targeted airstrikes have dramatically reduced cash stockpiles and oil infrastructure. And the Iraqi government has stopped paying civil servants in territory controlled by the extremists.

In Raqqa, the group's stronghold in Syria, salaries have been cut it half since December, electricity is rationed, and prices for basics are spiraling out of reach. That's according people exiled from the city.

Prior to the dramatic drop in oil prices, the terrorist group was estimated to be earning up to $500 million per year selling crude on the black market.

Most of the oil fields in Syria are in ISIS-controlled territory. Once pumped, it's moved by tankers to be sold locally to buyers in regime-controlled Syria, or smuggled over the border into Iraq andTurkey.

The coalition began bombing ISIS refineries last year and the Russians have now joined in, choosing oil-related bombing targets.

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