Jihadists in Syria attack French cement plant
Islamic State jihadists have seized and set fire to a cement factory in Syria owned by French construction materials giant Lafarge, causing damage to the facility, a monitor said Thursday.
"While advancing on the Kurdish town of Ain al-Arab (Kobane in Kurdish) near the Turkish border, they seized the Lafarge factory and burnt down part of it," said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The fighters of the Islamic State group (IS) took control of the factory between Friday and Saturday, he told AFP.
Citing security concerns, Lafarge decided last week to suspend work and evacuate personnel from the factory, which is located some 150 kilometres (100 miles) northeast of the city of Aleppo.
Once guarded by the Syrian army, responsibility for the factory's security was turned over to the main Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in August 2013.
But tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds have fled the Ain al-Arab area in the past fortnight, since the IS group launched a lightening offensive there.
A Lafarge spokeswoman said the company employed 250 people in Syria, almost all of them Syrians, but was unable to say how many worked at the cement factory.
The factory produces 2.6 million tonnes of cement a year, and constitutes the biggest foreign investment in Syria outside of the oil sector.
The United States and allies including Gulf Arab states have begun conducting deadly air strikes on IS positions in Syria and Iraq.
France has joined in the strikes on IS in Iraq, but it has ruled out taking part in military operations on Syrian territory.
© 2014 AFP