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Islamic State attack rocks Syria gas field – monitor

Shaer gas field, one of the biggest in Homs province, has seen fierce fighting between jihadists and pro-Assad troops

File: Syrian soldiers gather around a Syrian national flag in Palmyra, Syria, after taking the city from Islamic State, March 27, 2016. (SANA via AP)
File: Syrian soldiers gather around a Syrian national flag in Palmyra, Syria, after taking the city from Islamic State, March 27, 2016. (SANA via AP)

BEIRUT, Lebanon – 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 IS jihadists 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 IS 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 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Shaer, according to reports posted on Twitter.

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

IS 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.

IS 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 against President Bashar al-Assad.

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