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US-led strikes hit ISIS-held oil sites in Syria - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Formation of US Navy F-18E Super Hornets in flight over northern Iraq on September 23, 2014. (AFP Photo/US Air Force /Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel)

Formation of US Navy F-18E Super Hornets in flight over northern Iraq on September 23, 2014. (AFP Photo/US Air Force /Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel)

Beirut, AP—US-led airstrikes targeted Syrian oil installations held by the militant Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) overnight and early Thursday, killing nearly 20 people as the militants released dozens of detainees in their de facto capital, fearing further raids, activists said.

The latest strikes came on the third day of a US-led air campaign aimed at rolling back ISIS in Syria, and appeared to be aimed at one of the militants’ main revenue streams. The US has been conducting air raids against the group in neighboring Iraq for more than a month.

ISIS captured most of Syria’s largest oil fields earlier this year and is believed to be partly funding its operations by smuggling oil out and selling it on the black market.

At least four oil installations and three oil fields were hit around the town of Mayadeen in the eastern province of Deir Ezour, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and two local activist groups. A third activist group loyal to the militants confirmed the reports.

At least 14 militants were killed, said the Observatory, which gathers information from a network of activists on the ground. Another five people who lived near one of the refineries in the northeastern Hasakah province were also killed, the Observatory said, adding that they were likely the women and children of the militants.

Two activist collectives reported higher death tolls. It is common to have conflicting casualty figures in the chaotic aftermath of such events.

The planes came “with a terrifying sound and red lights before the explosions,” one activist wrote, documenting each explosion.

The militants meanwhile freed at least 150 people from a prison in their de facto capital of Raqqa in northeastern Syria, fearing more strikes, according to activists there.

Other strikes hit checkpoints, compounds, training grounds and vehicles belonging to ISIS throughout the territory they hold along the Euphrates River in northern and eastern Syria, with strikes hitting near the Turkish and Iraqi borders.

The raids targeted Syrian military bases seized by ISIS, including the Brigade 93 and Tabqa bases. They also hit a building used as an Islamic court and a cultural center in the town of Mayadeen, the activists reported.

The Observatory said other airstrikes targeted Al-Nusra Front, a Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate that has fought ISIS, and which is one of the most powerful groups fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. The strikes against Al-Nusra Front suggest a wider operation targeting other Syrian militants seen as a potential threat to the United States.

The Observatory also reported airstrikes near a northern Kurdish area that ISIS militants have been attacking for nearly a week now, causing the flight of over 150,000 people to neighboring Syria. But it was not immediately clear who was conducting the airstrikes southwest of the area known as Kobani, or Ayn Arab.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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