UAE, Saudi and US strike ISIL oil refineries
DAMASCUS // The US, UAE and Saudi Arabia have bombed oil refineries operated by ISIL in Syria to choke off their funding, killing more than a dozen militants.
Fighter jets from the three countries attacked the oil installations in eastern Syria, broadening their campaign beyond military targets to economic assets.
Meanwhile, France launched airstrikes on Thursday in Iraq and pledged more support for Syrian opposition forces, increasing its fight against extremists after the beheading of a French hostage.
And Iraq’s prime minister said his country’s intelligence network had uncovered a plot for an imminent attack on underground rail systems in the US and Paris.
Haider Al Abadi said he had been told of the plot by Baghdad, and that it was the work of ISIL foreign fighters.
Asked if the attacks had been thwarted, Mr Al Abadi said, “No.”
But two senior US security officials said the US had no information to support the threat.
ISIL, which has imposed its brutal rule over large parts of Syria and Iraq, has been using such small-scale mobile refineries to generate up to US$2 million (Dh7.34m) in revenues a day, Washington said.
Militants seized and set fire to a cement factory in Syria owned by French building giant Lafarge near the Turkish border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said yesterday.
The strikes against the oil refineries killed 14 militants but also left five civilians dead, including a child, the British-based monitoring group said.
It said fighters from Europe, Arab countries, Chechnya and Turkey made up by far most of the more than 140 militants killed since the US-led raids began in Syria.
The latest strikes came as US president Barack Obama urged leaders at the UN General Assembly to join the coalition, and convinced the Security Council to back a resolution to stem the flow of foreign fighters joining ISIL.
Belgium and The Netherlands committed warplanes to Iraq and Britain said its parliament would vote on Friday on doing the same.
ISIL has committed atrocities including mass executions of captured Iraqi soldiers, forced conversions of non-Muslims and filmed beheadings of western hostages.
The executed hostages included two US journalists and a British aid worker.
The Philippines said on Thursday it would not negotiate with a militant group threatening to behead one of two German hostages unless a huge ransom was paid and Berlin halted support for the campaign against ISIL.
The US-led coalition has carried out about 20 strikes in Syria since the start of the week. Washington has launched nearly 200 strikes in Iraq since early August.
The raids in Syria have hit ISIL troop positions, command centres, training compounds and vehicles, in their regional stronghold of Raqqa and near the Syria-Iraq border.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said Saudi and UAE warplanes played the leading role in Wednesday’s attack on the oil installations, devoting more planes and dumping more bombs than US forces.
Ten warplanes from the two countries flew with six US aircraft in the raids, with 80 per cent of the bomb tonnage delivered by Saudi and UAE planes, Adm Kirby said.
He said it is too early to say that the coalition was winning against ISIL, pointing to the group’s continued access to financing, volunteers and weapons even after the bombings in Syria and Iraq.
“Your question gets at ‘how do you know you’re winning?’” Adm Kirby said. “And what I’m telling you is it’s going to take us a while to be able to say that.
“Even after the hits they’ve taken – and they have been hit – they still have financing at their fingertips. They still have plenty of volunteers. They still have plenty of weapons and vehicles and the ability to move around.”
In New York, Mr Obama led a UN Security Council meeting that unanimously adopted a binding resolution to turn back the flow of foreign fighters heading to Iraq and Syria.
It requires all countries to adopt laws that would make it a serious crime for their nationals to join militant groups such as ISIL and Al Qaeda affiliate the Al Nusra Front, or risk economic sanctions or military action.
More than 50 countries have joined the US-led coalition, and in recent days more have promised concrete military support.
Belgium and the Netherlands said they would each send six F-16 fighter bombers to take part in the air campaign in Iraq.
The Netherlands will also deploy 250 military personnel and 130 trainers for the Iraqi military, and Greece said on Thursday that it would send arms to Kurdish forces battling the jihadists.
Meanwhile, nine people were arrested in London on suspicion of encouraging terrorism and belonging to a banned extremist Islamist organisation.
There had been fears the airstrikes could inadvertently help Syrian president Bashar Al Assad’s regime, which is locked in a civil war lasting three and a half years, which the UN says has left more than 190,000 dead.
The militants have posed the most serious threat to his regime, although Washington has vowed to arm and equip moderate rebels as part of the anti-ISIL campaign.
On Thusday a Syrian security source said regime troops had managed to recapture the strategically important town of Adra near the capital that was seized by rebels in December.
* Agence France-Presse, Reuters and Associated Press
Updated: September 25, 2014 04:00 AM