THE LEVANT – As Kurdish peshmerga forces launched a major attack against the group Thursday, ISIL militants set several wells ablaze at an oil field in northern Iraq before retreating, according to local reports.
The Ain Zalah oil field was one of the a few fields Islamist extremist group seized control of in northen Iraq and Syria earlier this month. Reports indicate militants set fire to the field, abandoning operations and fleeing from the peshmerga.
Since the group’s aggressive Iraq infiltration in June, large swaths of territory in northern and eastern Iraq have fallen under ISIL control. An estimated 200,000 members of minority religious and ethnic groups have since been forced to flee. In July, militants drove out hundred of Christians in Mosul whose history in the city spanned more than 1,700 years.
Earlier in August and west of Mosul, another Iraqi religious-minority group, the Yazidis, were driven totake shelter on Mt. Sinjar after becoming the extremist group’s next target. The militants then surrounded the mountain, trapping the Yazidis and kidnapping and killing those attempting escape. The move, coupled with the Kurds’ slipping control in Irbil, prompted the U.S. to carry out limited airstrikes on ISIL targets outside the Kurdish capital, and the international community to deliver much-needed aid supplies to the marooned Yazidis on Mt. Sinjar.
The Kurds have since regained control in several areas, including in the latest attack which drove militants from the Ain Zalah oil field. ISIL has reportedly accrued substantial profit from the oil fields they control, contributing to their ability to pay fighters and purchase weapons.
so far officials have confirmed that Iraq’s main fields in the south, along with its export terminals, have not been affected by the ongoing violence and militant threat gripping the rest of the country.
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