Thursday, July 17, 2014

Syria:Islamic State fighters capture Shaer gas field

Syria:Islamic State fighters capture Shaer gas field
Jihadist group's fighters capture Shaer gas field in desert region of Palmyra in central Homs province.
Fighters from the self-declared jihadist group, the Islamic State, have seized a gas field in the desert region of Palmyra in the Syrian central province of Homs, a monitoring group and the governor of Homs said.

The fighters on Thursday morning attacked the Shaer gas field, east of the ancient site of Palmyra, killing 23 guards, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"The fate of 340 National Defence Force (paramilitary) members, guards, engineers and employees who were in the field, is unknown, as they were either taken prisoner or wounded during the operation," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

The operation, he added, was the Islamic State's "most important so far against the government" of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

Abu Bilal, an activist linked to the Islamic State in Homs province, also reported the attack.

At least 12 members of the Islamic State had been slain in the fighting, he said, adding that "dozens" were killed on the government side.

"There was a martyrdom [suicide] attack, and we took eight checkpoints before taking over the gas field," Abu Bilal told the AFP news agency via the internet.

Homs governor Talal Barazi also confirmed the attack.

"Armed men took control on Wednesday evening of the gas field, and we have lost contact with three technicians who were on the site," Barazi said.

"The armed men were present in the area beforehand, but they have now expanded their area of control with this new operation," he told AFP.

"The army is trying to take it back. There is fighting in the area and government air strikes."

The Islamic State, which proclaimed a "caliphate" straddling Syria and Iraq last month, has in recent weeks taken over the entire countryside of oil-rich Deir Ezzor province.

Deir Ezzor borders Homs province as well as Iraq, where the group has spearheaded a major offensive that has seen large swathes of territory fall out of the Iraqi government's control.


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