Battling ISIS for control of Iraq's oil facilities

Iraqi forces have regained control of Qayyara, a town in the north of the country, dealing a blow to ISIS's oil smuggling operations. Prior to abandoning the town, ISIS used to ship at least 50 tanker truckloads of oil a day from Qayyara and nearby oilfields to neighbouring Syria to help finance its militancy.

ISIS abandoned northern Iraqi town of Qayyara last week, after setting fire to many of the region's oil wells

It gets darker earlier these days in the northern Iraqi town of Qayyara. Smoke billows into the sky, blotting out the sun in central districts hours before nightfall and producing an apocalyptic scene in the desert settlement.

(Azad Lashkari/Reuters) (Azad Lashkari/Reuters)

Security forces recapture Qayyara.

ISIS militants abandoned Qayyara about a week ago after setting fire to many of the region's oil wells. The Iraqi military's restoration of Qayyara, along with a nearby air base in July, is the latest and most significant advance in a U.S.-backed push to Mosul, the largest city under ISIS control.

(Azad Lashkari/Reuters)

Oil production in Qayyara on hold.

(Azad Lashkari/Reuters)

Iraq doesn't expect to resume production from the northern Qayyara oil region before it captures nearby Mosul from ISIS, an oil ministry spokesman said on Tuesday.

(Susannah George/Associated Press)

Iraqi security forces look to recapture Mosul.

Baghdad wants to retake Mosul before the end of the year, which it says will effectively end the militants' existence in Iraq more than two years after they seized a third of its territory. 

(Azad Lashkari/Reuters)

Loss of Qayyara deals a blow to ISIS.

ISIS had extracted oil from some 60 wells in Qayyara for smuggling activities that helped finance its militancy.

(Susannah George/Associated Press) (Susannah George/Associated Press)

ISIS militants used to ship at least 50 tanker truckloads a day from Qayyara and nearby Najma oilfields to neighbouring Syria. A sign remains on the main road announcing prices for crude from places like the Syrian city of Aleppo, 550 km west of Qayyara.

(Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters)

Refineries abandoned.

Rudimentary refineries once used in local consumption have been abandoned on the side of the road leading east out of the town.

(Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)

Smell of fuel inundates area. 


The smell of petrol now overwhelms the area. Wind carries the smoke from well fires into the town centre. Staying more than a few minutes in the area leaves one's throat burning, and children in these streets have quickly developed coughs.

(Azad Lashkari/Reuters)

'Gas rains down on us at night.'

"We call on the Iraqi government to save us and extinguish the (burning oil) wells," said Qayyara resident Abdel Aziz Saleh. "They are suffocating us. The birds, the animals are black, the people are black. Gas rains down on us at night."

(Azad Lashkari/Reuters)

Despite fires, Qayyara remains full of inhabitants.

Whereas civilians in most other areas recaptured from ISIS fled ahead of government offensives, the majority of Qayyara's roughly 20,000 residents have stayed put, a trend the commander of the Mosul operation said he expected would continue as forces push further north.

(Azad Lashkari/Reuters)

Residents take to the streets.

With no power and no more fear of punishment from ISIS's harsh rule, much of the population was in the streets on Monday, waving to military vehicles that handed out basic supplies like cooking oil, sugar and canned food.

(Azad Lashkari/Reuters)

Children flashed peace signs and some played in the black reflective pools of oil that spilled into main streets after ISIS blew up pipelines and wells next to a main hospital in a likely attempt to obstruct visibility for coalition air strikes.

With files from CBC News