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US-led strikes hit IS-held oil sites

Published:Friday | September 26, 2014 | 12:00 AM
A formation of US Navy F-18E Super Hornets leaves after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over northern Iraq, as part of US led coalition airstrikes on the Islamic State group and other targets in Syria.

BEIRUT (AP): US-led airstrikes targeted Syrian oil installations held by the extremist Islamic State group overnight and early yesterday, killing at least 19 people as the militants released dozens of detainees in one of their strongholds, fearing further raids, activists said.

The latest strikes came on the third day of a US-led air campaign aimed at rolling back the Islamic State group 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 neighbouring Iraq for more than a month.

On the ground, Syria's civil war continued unabated, with government forces taking back an important industrial area near Damascus from the rebels, said Syrian activists, while also accusing President Bashar Assad's troops of using an unspecified deadly chemical substance.

The Islamic State group is believed to control 11 oil fields in Iraq and Syria, earning more than $3 million a day from oil smuggling, theft and extortion. Those funds have supported its rapid advance across much of Syria and Iraq, where it has carved out a self-declared state straddling the border, imposed a harsh version of Islamic law and massacred opponents.

At least four oil installations and three oil fields were hit around the town of Mayadeen in eastern Syria, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and two local activist groups. It was not immediately clear how important the refineries and fields were.

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 were also killed, likely the wives and children of the militants, the Observatory and activists said.