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Islamic State captures large swaths of Shaer gas field in Homs

The Islamic State has released pictures showing its capture of large parts of the al Shaer gas field in the eastern part of Homs province in Syria. The field is due east of the ancient city of Palmyra. The photos were disseminated on Twitter by the jihadist group's supporters after being posted elsewhere online. The Islamic State has taken to releasing its propaganda this way after the social media site began to crack down on its official accounts.

Infography on the
Islamic State (in French)

The photos bear the title of Wilayat Homs, as the gas field is part of that declared administrative division of the Islamic State.

The pictures were released in two separate photo sets. The first set shows many destroyed tanks of the Syrian regime, as well as several dead regime fighters. Other images show the Islamic State's "spoils" from overrunning the Syrian Army forces, including many rockets, mortars, and vehicles, as well as ammunition. The jihadist group also claims to have captured five tanks and two BMPs (Russian-made infantry fighting vehicles) from the regime. The remaining pictures show that the Islamic State has taken control of the Hayan Gas Plant.

The second release of pictures shows more clashes with the regime in the gas field, including the use of what appears to be a Soviet-made D30 howitzer. Other photographs show the use of heavily armed technicals (pickup trucks fitted with weapons in the bed) and mortars. The Islamic State claimed to have captured two more tanks, several technicals, and various heavy weaponry from the regime. The last few pictures show that the jihadist group has captured the Jahar Gas Plant. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based group, said that more than 30 soldiers from the regime were killed in clashes with the Islamic State in the Shaer gas field.

The field has changed hands several times throughout the war. In July, the Islamic State briefly took Shaer after possibly killing hundreds of regime soldiers. At the time, Al Arabiya reported that "at least 270 people [were] killed after fighters belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria seized a gas field in central Syria." The report also noted that SOHR said, "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, wounded or captured during the operation."

The Islamic State controls various oil and natural gas fields, refineries, and production facilities in Iraq and Syria. The United States and coalition partners have targeted Islamic State-held oil assets in both countries.

[Source: By Caleb Weiss, Threat Matrix, The Long War Journal, NJ, 02Nov14]

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