Islamic State blowing up pumping stations in Syria gas field; blasts felt 50 km away in Palmyra

AFP-JIJI

Powerful blasts rocked a key gas field in central Syria on Monday, with a monitor saying they were caused by the Islamic State group blowing up pumping stations.

The Shaer gas field — one of the biggest in the central province of Homs — has been the site of fierce fighting between Islamic State jihadis and Syrian government loyalists.

“There were three huge explosions there carried out by IS on Monday,” said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Abdel Rahman said Islamic State was believed to have blown up several of Shaer’s pumping stations. He had no immediate word on casualties.

The explosions reportedly even shook Palmyra, the ancient oasis city about 50 km (30 miles) southeast of Shaer, according to reports posted on Twitter.

Syria’s army recaptured Palmyra from Islamic State on March 27, after about 10 months of jihadi rule over the city.

Islamic State seized the Shaer field last week, but Syrian armed forces and pro-government militias have fought hard to get it back.

Syrian state news agency SANA on Monday evening said government forces had seized a hilltop just west of the field.

The agency did not mention the blasts.

Islamic State has targeted oil and gas facilities in Iraq and Syria to fund its self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate.

More than 270,000 people have been killed since Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011 with protests targeting President Bashar Assad.