Sunni militants seize towns and key oil field in Syria

BY newsdesk  July 3, 2014 at 11:59 AM EST

bh esclating violence iraq
Sunni militants under the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant took over more towns in Syria near the border with Iraq on Thursday, working to expand their claim on the area after declaring a new Muslim state, or caliphate.

They gained ground in towns, including Mayadeen and Ishara in eastern Syria, and took control of Syria’s largest oil field, al-Omar, from fighters in the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, reportedly without firing a shot.

The Nusra Front and other rebels have been battling Syrian government forces and rejected ISIL’s declaration on Sunday of an Islamic state with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as its head. But other fighters allied with tribes in eastern Syria are joining al-Baghdadi’s group.

“The clans of the city of Ishara, and the villages around it … and all of the factions in these areas … announce before God that they will cease fighting with the Islamic State,” says a man in a video with several tribal elders in Ishara, reported the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia deployed 30,000 troops to its border with Iraq to protect against the “terrorist threat.”

ISIL forces have seized portions of northern and western Iraq since last month.