As Islamic State loses ground in Iraq and Syria, the Sunni militant group which once held territory amounting to a third of those countries is turning to sabotage to ensure its enemies cannot benefit from its losses.
As the Syrian army and allied militias advanced under heavy Russian air cover on the ancient city of Palmyra three weeks ago, Islamic State leaders ordered fighters to destroy oil and gas fields.
“It is the duty of mujahideen today to expand operations targeting economic assets of the infidel regimes in order to deprive crusader and apostate governments of resources,” an article in the group’s online weekly magazine al-Nabaa said.
The strategy poses a double challenge to Baghdad and Damascus, depriving their governments of income and making it harder to provide services and gain popular support in devastated areas recaptured from the militants.
The March 2 article said operations by Islamic State in the area around Palmyra “prove the massive effect that strikes aimed at the infidels’ economy have, confusing them and drawing them … into battles they are not ready for.”
It’s not just oil wells the group has targeted. Twice in the last two years it has taken over Palmyra, about 200 km (130 miles) northeast of Damascus, and both times destroyed priceless antiquities before being driven out.
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