ISIS-linked militants are threatening huge natural gas reserves the world needs badly right now, according to government and industry officials.
The militants have been using social media to spread propaganda, including footage of a video in which a group of young men in balaclavas are seen to be throwing a grenade in the air in a public square.
The video, which shows a woman dressed in black being shot at by the group, was released on YouTube by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a terror group also known as ISIS.
Satellite imagery experts tracked the militants’ movements to the town of Umm Qasr, close to the Saudi border, at the weekend, US military officials said.
They said the militants were travelling to the town on motorbikes, with the vehicles fitted with heavy machine guns.
A Umm Qasr military base is believed to be the last one in the region still controlled by ISIL, which has previously bombed the town.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor, said ISIL had seized several oil and gas fields in Iraq in the past two years, including in Umm Qasr.
The UK’s Daily Mirror newspaper reported that as many as 15,000 ISIS members could be in Syria and Iraq at the same time, but officials said that figure was probably too high as most of the terror group’s fighters were being evacuated to Iraq, where they have reportedly been trained to use guns and tanks.
The US-led coalition fighting the “Islamic State” group has launched several air strikes on military bases belonging to the terror group, as part of an effort to degrade and destroy its forces.
In one raid, US fighter jets fired nearly 200 missiles on a building used by the extremists, destroying the base in Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh, said Reuters news agency.
The US-led campaign, largely carried out with Saudi-made bombs, has been blamed for at least one civilian death and has also targeted military training camps of the “Islamic State” group in Syria and Iraq.