A man holds wheat grains inside a wheat storage in Qamishli, Syria September 18, 2017.REUTERS/Rodi Said
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While Syrian President Bashar Assad was accusing the West of turning a blind eye to Daesh (ISIS) smuggling, a member of his Parliament was quietly doing business with the group, farmers and administrators in the militants' former stronghold said. The arrangement helped the Syrian government to feed areas still under its control after Daesh took over the northeastern wheat-growing region during the 6-year-old civil war, they said.Traders working for businessman and lawmaker Hossam al-Katerji bought wheat from farmers in Daesh areas and transported it to Damascus, allowing the group to take a cut, five farmers and two administrators in Raqqa province told Reuters.Katerji's office manager, Mohammad Kassab, confirmed that Katerji Group was providing Syrian government territories with wheat from the northeast of Syria through Daesh territory but denied any contact with Daesh.Local officials said Katerji's traders bought up wheat from Raqqa and Deir al-Zor and gave Daesh 20 percent.Daesh may have exported some of the wheat.Asked whether Syrian companies were dealing with Daesh to secure wheat, Internal Trade and Consumer Protection Minister Abdullah al-Gharbi said in August: "No, not at all".The wheat-buying season ended in August and Daesh has lost control of the wheat-growing areas, either to government forces or the Syrian Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
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