Al-Qaeda’s Syrian wing is helping to finance its activities by selling the product of oilfields that once helped to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Up to 380,000 barrels of crude oil were previously produced by wells around the city of Raqqa and in the desert region to its east that are now in rebel hands – in particular Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda off-shoot which is the strongest faction in this part of the country.
Now the violently anti-Western jihadist group, which has been steadily extending its control in the region, is selling the crude oil to local entrepreneurs, who use home-made refineries to produce low-grade petrol and other fuels for Syrians facing acute shortages.
The ability of Jabhat al-Nusra to profit from the oil locally, despite international sanctions which have hindered its sale abroad, will be particularly worrying to the European Union, which has voted to ease the embargo but at the same time wants to marginalise the extremist group within the opposition.
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