Extortion coupled with threats to oil investors in Deir Ezzor

An oil facility inside the al-Omar oil field in eastern Deir Ezzor province (Sputnik)

An oil facility inside the al-Omar oil field in eastern Deir Ezzor province (Sputnik)


Deir Ezzor – Obadah al-Sheikh

The extortion operations imposed by the Islamic State organization in the villages and towns of eastern Deir Ezzor countryside have reached the oil investors in the region. Numerous threats have been monitored to investors of burning their properties if they do not pay money to the organization.

The same threats related to collecting money by the organization are concentrated in areas controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the northern and eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor.

On June 24th, members of the Islamic State organization stormed one of the oil wells in the al-Sijan station in the eastern countryside of the province and set it on fire because the investor refused to pay the money, according to the North Press news agency.

Pay or die

An oil investor in the al-Tanak field in the eastern Deir Ezzor province, who requested anonymity for security reasons, said he obtained the right to invest through a tender offered by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (the political umbrella of the SDF) under a one-month contract.

He received privileges that ensure security for the oil well, in exchange for a share of the production profits with one of the military figures operating under the SDF.

After signing the contract with the al-Tanak field administration, he started receiving messages through the WhatsApp application from American numbers demanding payment within a specified period, accompanied by threats if the payment was not made.

The message read, “Peace be upon you, you are required to pay an amount of $5000 within three days, and in case of non-payment, other measures will be taken. This payment is under the name of zakat and sultanic fees.”

He added that at first, he ignored the threats, and as the deadline approached, a sound bomb was thrown at his house, followed by threats sent from other numbers through the same application, stating that if he did not pay, his car and house would be targeted.

The attack with a sound bomb frightened the investor, prompting him to contact the same number and offer to pay while trying to negotiate the amount but to no avail.

After two days, members of the Islamic State organization contacted the investor and requested $5000, specifying a location and a password for delivering the amount.

He added that he paid the amount in a local market known as “Thursday Market” in the town of al-Shahil, eastern Deir Ezzor, handing it to a person he met in the market after uttering the agreed-upon password.

A general situation

Khaled al-Sultan, hailing from the town of al-Shu’fah in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor and a former investor in the Azraq oil fields, told Enab Baladi that he obtained an investment contract for ten days and started receiving threats immediately after signing the contract.

According to al-Sultan, the threats are a common condition for those working in this field, as most investors receive death threats from people speaking on behalf of the Islamic State organization.

He added that the extortion amount imposed by the organization depends on the production of the well he invested in, as he was asked for $10000 after contacting an account through the Telegram application.

According to al-Sultan, he managed to negotiate the amount down over days and eventually paid $4500, which equaled his profits from the well investment.

The method of delivering the amount for al-Sultan was different, as he was asked to place the money inside a plastic bag in the town’s desert area, and the person who contacted him threatened that if the amount was short, he would be forced to pay double the amount.

For al-Sultan, the extortion collectors were not from the Islamic State organization but he believed they belonged to the SDF, especially since they were aware of the exact details concerning the investment contract, oil production, and the number of tankers entering and exiting the well.

According to the investors Enab Baladi communicated with, the extortion amounts ranged between $5000 and $25000, depending on the size of the field and its production, and the individual’s financial ability to pay.


النسخة العربية من المقال

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