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Jihadists now control all of Syria's main oil fields: NGO

BEIRUT, Lebanon--The jihadist Islamic State now fully controls all of Syria's main oil and gas fields, which are located in Deir Ezzor province next to Iraq, a monitoring group said.

IS declared an “Islamic caliphate” in areas it controls in Syria and Iraq, where it is spearheading an offensive against government troops.

“IS took control of the Tanak oil field, located in the Sheiytat desert area in the east of Deir Ezzor province,” late Thursday after rival rebels withdrew, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Earlier that day the jihadists seized the major Al-Omar oil field.

They have still not captured the tiny Al-Ward oil field, which produces barely 200 barrels of oil per day and is in the hands of a local tribe, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

IS seized Tanak and Al-Omar after rival fighters from al-Qaida's Al-Nusra Front and other Syrian rebel groups withdrew from those areas, said the Observatory.

In Deir Ezzor, IS has taken over nearly all the countryside, its forces bolstered by heavy weapons captured from Iraqi troops fleeing an offensive that it spearheaded.

In January, Al-Nusra and other Islamist militants turned their guns on the jihadists, then known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as they swept across Syria imposing their hegemony and brutal abuse.

The rebels expelled IS from the northeastern Idlib province and much of Aleppo, though the jihadist group has recently gone on the counter-offensive in Aleppo.

On Friday, IS seized control of the Kurdish villages of Zur Maghar and Bayada near the Turkish border, said the Observatory.

Speaking to AFP, Abdel Rahman warned that Aleppo city's rebel areas “are now surrounded from all sides, by the regime and by the jihadists they are fighting.”

Aleppo's rebel areas, which lie mainly in the east of the city, have come under intense, daily air raids since December, leading tens of thousands of residents to flee for the countryside and to neighboring Turkey.

On Sunday, IS declared a “caliphate,” referring to an Islamic system of rule that was abolished nearly 100 years ago, in a move that rebels, including Islamists in Syria, branded a “heresy.”

Elsewhere in Syria, the regime air force kept up its air raids Friday against rebel areas, mainly in the southern province of Daraa, Aleppo, Damascus province and Idlib.

A day earlier, nine people were killed in a raid on the opposition-held village of Maaret Masirin in Idlib province, according to the Observatory.

Syria's war began as a peaceful movement demanding Assad's ouster, but morphed into a conflict after a brutal crackdown by the regime.

Many months into the fighting, jihadists started to pour into Syria, drawing warnings from analysts of an eventual regional conflagration.

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