Syrian rebels capture oilfield

  • Syrian rebels have captured a key oilfield in eastern Deir Ezzor province, according to activists.

    On Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said al-Ward fell after intense fighting that lasted several days. However, the reports have not been independently verified.

    The Observatory said it was the first time the rebels had taken control of an oilfield.

    At least 40 troops guarding the oilfield have been killed, wounded or captured.

    Al-Ward is one of the most important oilfields in Deir Ezzor and contains most of Syria's energy reserves.

    Oil was the main source of hard currency for the government of President Bashar al-Assad until sanctions were imposed by the European Union, which had purchased 95 percent of Syria's output.

    Oil exports dropped to 7,500 tons in the first quarter of 2012 from 13,500 tons in the fourth quarter of 2011.

    The news comes as several opposition groups met earlier in the day for crucial talks in Qatar over how to form a more united front against the Assad regime.