The United States has upped its intensity in the fight against ISIS, and has targeted airstrikes on trucks used by the extremist group to smuggle oil through Syria, according to a report in The New York Times.
The attacks have not been officially confirmed by the US government, but have reportedly so far destroyed 116 trucks carrying oil in the Deir al-Zour area of Syria. This marks the first time oil trucks have been targeted by the US, The Times reports.
The area is close to the country’s eastern border with Iraq, and is under ISIS control. The strikes were confirmed by US officials speaking anonymously to the paper.
It should be noted that the attacks are not a direct response to the Paris attacks on Friday, which ISIS has taken credit for. The operations have reportedly been planned for a while, as a means of disrupting what is one of the key revenue streams that allows ISIS to continue its operations.
However, the attacks do come almost immediately after a series of strikes carried out by French aircraft, which targeted “a command center, recruitment center for jihadists, a munitions depot and a training camp for fighters” according to a statement from the French government.
Multiple coordinated attacks in Paris on Friday night that ISIS has taken credit for killed 132 people.
ISIS can make up to $US40 million per month through producing and smuggling oil, according to The Times, while one unnamed western oil worker told Reuters in September that “Islamic State makes not less than $US2 million daily that allows them to pay salaries and maintain their operations.” ISIS now controls most of eastern Syria’s oil producing areas.
Last week, US forces began to increase the volume of strikes on oil fields in Syria to disrupt ISIS’s oil producing operations, but it has resisted attacking convoys because of fears of causing civilian casualties, according to The Times’ report. This has allowed ISIS’s distribution network to function virtually unchecked until now.
Fear of injuring civilians meant that numerous precautions were put in place by the US forces, according to The Times, including dropping leaflets around an hour before any strikes were carried out, warning civilians and drivers to get out of the immediate area.
American officials told The Times that around 295 trucks were in the area targeted by the airstrikes, which were carried out by four A-10 attack planes, and two AC-130 gunships.
The campaign of bombing has been dubbed Tidal Wave II after the World War II attacks on Romanian oil production designed to slow Nazi Germany.
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