IS blows up Syria gas field causing 4.4 magnitude blast

#SyriaWar

The Shaer gas fields have been the scene of fierce fighting after being captured by IS from government forces last week

A general view of the Shaer gas field in Homs' eastern countryside (AFP)
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Last update: 
Tuesday 17 May 2016 9:10 UTC
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Powerful blasts rocked a major gas field in central Syria on Monday, with a monitor saying they were caused by the Islamic State group blowing up pumping stations.

The Shaer gas field - one of the biggest in the central province of Homs - has been the site of fierce fighting between IS and Syrian government loyalists.

"There were three huge explosions there carried out by IS on Monday," said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Seismological equipment detected a 4.4 magnitude earthquake at the time of the explosion.

Abdel Rahman said IS was believed to have blown up several of Shaer's pumping stations. He had no immediate word on casualties.

The explosions reportedly even shook Palmyra, the ancient oasis city about 50 kilometres (30 miles) southeast of Shaer, according to reports posted on Twitter.

Syria's army recaptured Palmyra from IS on 27 March, after about 10 months of IS control of the city.

IS seized the Shaer field last week, but Syrian armed forces and pro-government militias have fought hard to get it back.

Syrian state news agency SANA on Monday evening said government forces had seized a hilltop just west of the field.

The agency did not mention the blasts.  

IS has seized oil and gas facilities in Iraq and Syria to fund its self-proclaimed Islamic "caliphate", but these have been heavily targeted by both Western and Russian air strikes as part of the ongoing military campaigns against the group.

More than 270,000 people have been killed since Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011 with protests against President Bashar al-Assad.