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Russia destroys Daesh oil trade in Syria: Defense minister

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The aftermath of a Russian attack on a Daesh oil tanker convoy in Syria

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says his country is targeting the financial basis of the Daesh Takfiri group in Syria, including its oil trade, the terrorists’ main source of income.

He made the comments at the 5th Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS) in the Russian capital on Wednesday.

“Upon the Russian president’s decision, part of the [Russian] Aerospace Forces were removed from the territory [of Syria], and the remainder of the aviation group continues to deliver strikes against criminal groups. In doing so we are striving to destroy the economic basis of Daesh and its main source of income which is oil smuggling,” Shoigu said.

He went on to say that Moscow is now focused on the political settlement of the conflict in the war-hit country and providing humanitarian aid for the people of the liberated regions.

“Syrian troops accompanied by Russian aviation have liberated 500 settlements and more than 10,000 square kilometers,” he added.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu

Moreover, Lieutenant General Sergey Rudskoy, the head of the Main Operative Department of the Russian General Staff, said at the conference that terrorists have lost more than 200 facilities of oil extraction and over 2,000 means for delivery of oil products since the start of Russia’s counter-terrorism airstrikes in Syria in late September.

Rudskoy added that the Russian warplanes have also shut off the main routes of terrorists’ hydrocarbon deliveries to Turkey.

“The resources base of the illegal armed formations of Daesh and Jabhat al-Nusra has been undermined. The terrorist groupings have lost their main source of revenues from the illegal sale of oil, which, in turn, has limited their possibilities for the purchase of armaments, ammunition and the provision of money allowance to militants,” Rudskoy further said.

Russia has repeatedly said it has evidence showing Turkey was involved in the smuggling of oil from areas held by Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

“After our Aerospace Forces initiated the operation to terminate the illegal traffic, particularly of oil and oil products, from Syria … to Turkey, this traffic has decreased substantially,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on March 23.

Israel, which is itself believed to be supporting Daesh in the region, has also said that Ankara has been providing money to the terror group through oil purchases.

“As you know, Daesh enjoyed Turkish money for oil for a very, very long period of time,” Israeli minister for military affairs Moshe Yaalon told reporters in the Greek capital of Athens on January 26. Ankara, however, has strongly rejected the allegation.

An image grab of aerial footage by Russia that shows lines of Daesh-owned trucks smuggling Syrian oil to Turkey

Two more terror groups in Syria

Russia's UN ambassador on Tuesday formally requested the international body’s Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) to designate as terrorist two major militant groups of Ahrar Al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam, which are operating in Syria.

According to Vitaly Churkin, the reason “for this step was the evidence that these organizations, fighting in Syria, are closely linked to terrorist organizations, first of all Daesh and al-Qaeda, and receive from them financial, material, technical and military support.”

Groups listed by the UN as terrorist organizations are not included in the Russia-US brokered ceasefire in Syria, and can still be attacked.

Mohammed Alloush, a leading figure of Jaish al-Islam, is currently the chief negotiator for the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC). The so-called HNC is involved in the UN-brokered peace talks in Switzerland.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. Damascus says Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar are the main supporters of the militants fighting the government forces. 

According to UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, some 400,000 people have lost their lives as a result of over five years of conflict in the Arab country.

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