Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadist group fighting in Syria, has seized oil production sites on the outskirts of the city of Raqqa, local media has reported.
The group, still operating under its new name Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, has taken control of refineries in desert regions east of Raqqa, sites capable of producing 380,000 barrels of oil daily.
According to the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, jihadists are selling off oil, sometimes to pro-regime Syrian forces to fund their war effort.
Oil fields in Deir Ezzor and Raqqa, close to the border with Iraq, have played an increasingly vital strategic role in Syria’s war after the European Union revoked fuel sanctions
“The northern front hasn’t just gone dormant; the northern front has gone commercial,” one leading opposition figure told The Guardian newspaper.
Syria’s oil output has declined to around 130,000 barrels per day since the outbreak of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Jabhat al-Nusra is reportedly producing low-grade fuel for sales of around 4,000 Syrian lire (£20) per barrel.
Syria's oil production decreased to about 130 thousand barrels per day after the outbreak of the revolt against the Assad regime.
The Syrian regime is now paying around 150m Syrian lire (£1.4m) each month to Jabhat al-Nusra to maintain the country’s oil production.
Some commentators have claimed the news marks a significant turning-point in the Syrian conflict.