US coalition bombs ISIS oil tankers in Nineveh

ISIS militants had seized 81 oil-wells in Iraq and Syria. File photo

ARA News

ERBIL Warplanes of the US-led coalition on Thursday bombed a number of ISIS oil tankers in Iraq’s northwestern Nineveh province, local sources and activists reported. 

The coalition’s air forces hit a convoy of oil tankers that belonged to the radical group of Islamic State (ISIS) in southern Nineveh. 

“The airstrikes caused a complete damage to the tankers, followed by huge explosions,” head of Nineveh media center Raafat al-Zarari told ARA News. 

At least 12 ISIS militants were killed in the operation.

The targeted convoy has reportedly included 25 oil tankers. They were all destroyed in the coalition strikes.  

“This was another heavy blow to ISIS’s financial capacities, as the group largely relies on the returns of selling oil on the black market after smuggling such tankers to neighboring countries,” al-Zarari said.

ISIS Oil Revenues Reduced

The US-led coalition has carried out 303 air strikes against the Islamic State’s (ISIS) oil and gas facilities as part of Operation Tidal Wave II since 2014, and has cut down ISIS revenues to $15 million per month.

“Operation Tidal Wave II continues to reduce Daesh’s access to revenues from illicit oil and natural gas operations,” said the US-led coalition spokesman Colonel Christopher Garver. 

“In our estimate, Daesh is [used to be] earning $300 million a month from illicit oil activities. That should have been approximately $30 million a month and we estimate that the reduction from Tidal Wave II operations cuts their revenues by a half to approximately $15 million a month,” he said.

The US-led coalition has carried out more than 303 airstrikes since September 2014, targeting ISIS oil and gas facilities.

Speaking to ARA News, Aymenn Jawad Al Tamimi, a research fellow at the Middle East Forum–a US think tank–said the airstrikes have a remarkable effect in the war on ISIS “because the group now controls fewer oil fields, and facilities have been damages and supply routes disrupted.”

“But there’s no alternative in the end to retaking [oil-rich] Deir ez-Zor. The reduction by half is possible, but in the end the bulk of the loss will come from recapture of Deir ez-Zor oil fields,” he said. 

However, Al Tamimi said ISIS oil revenues never reached $300 million dollar per month. “At maximum revenues topped $40-50 million a month,” he said.

Despite the financial losses, the Islamic State is still trying to fight back, also against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Manbij that now control more than 50 per cent of the city on border with Turkey.

“Desperate counter-attacks near Manbij resulted in major ISIL [ISIS] losses. Coalition-partnered SDF now establishing firm foothold in the city,” US anti-ISIS envoy Brett McGurk said on Twitter on Thursday.

“We’ve seen Daesh [ISIS] fighters leaving these previously defended towns to attempt to reinforce Manbij.  As the pressure increases against Daesh in Manbij, they are demonstrating more desperation to keep Daesh strategic crossroads open for access outside Syria,” Colonel Garver said.

Due to the setbacks on the ground, as a result of successes by the Iraqi army, and Kurdish forces in both Syria and Iraq, ISIS has carried out attacks on civilians in the Middle East and in the West to show their supporters that they still have the ability to strike against their enemies.

“They are the force that’s conducting attacks like we saw in Paris, like we saw in Brussels.  They’re inspiring attacks like we saw in San Bernardino and we saw in Orlando.  And this is a force that needs to be dealt with. These are people that they need to not only be defeated on the battlefield, but they’re ideology needs to be broken and defeated as well,” Colonel Garver added.

“We still have to break the caliphate.  We still have to show that they are not worth following from the worst of humanity around the globe, but they would want to do that in our capitals anyway. They would want to do that in Western countries,” he concluded.

Reporting by: Chalak Haci, Ehmed Shiwesh and Wladimir van Wilgenburg

Source: ARA News

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