AL QOSH: Iraqi Kurdish fighters backed by US warplanes retook the country’s largest dam from jihadists yesterday, as Sunni Arab tribesmen and security forces fought the militants west of Baghdad.
The recapture of Mosul dam marks the biggest prize yet clawed back from Islamic State (IS) jihadists since they launched a major offensive in northern Iraq in early June, sweeping Iraqi security forces aside.
“Mosul Dam was liberated completely,” Ali Awni, an official from Iraq’s main Kurdish party, said. A senior Iraqi army officer said while the fighting had ended, some areas around the dam were still inaccessible due to bombs planted by the militants.
The dam breakthrough came after US warplanes and drones pummelled the militants fighting against the Kurdish advance on Saturday and again yesterday.
The US Central Command reported that the military had carried out 14 air strikes yesterday near the dam, which, located on the Tigris river, provides electricity and irrigation water for farming to much of the region.
Centcom said the strikes destroyed 10 IS armed vehicles, seven IS Humvees, two armoured personnel carriers and one IS checkpoint.
In Washington, the White House said that President Barack Obama had informed Congress he authorised US air strikes in Iraq to help retake control of the Mosul Dam, which it said was consistent with his goal of protecting US citizens in the country.
“The failure of the Mosul Dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, threaten US personnel and facilities - including the US Embassy in Baghdad - and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace,” the White House said in a statement. “These operations are limited in their nature, duration, and scope and are being undertaken in coordination with and at the request of the government of Iraq.”
Security forces backed by Sunni Arab tribal militia made gains against the jihadists in Iraq’s Anbar province, west of the provincial capital Ramadi, police said. Fighting was also taking place near the strategic Euphrates Valley town of Haditha, located near another important dam, police Staff Major General Ahmed Sadag said. The rallying of more than two dozen Sunni tribes to the government side on Friday marked a potential turning point in the fightback against the jihadists and their allies.