U.S.-backed Kurds battle to retake Iraq’s largest dam

The military operation aims at retaking control of the country’s largest hydroelectric dam seized by militants earlier this month

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Kurdish troops backed by U.S. warplanes launched a bid Saturday to recapture Mosul dam, Iraq’s largest, from militants, a senior Kurdish military official said.

“Kurdish peshmerga, with U.S. air support, have seized control of the eastern side of the dam” complex, Major General Abdelrahman Korini told AFP.

“We killed several members of Daash. We are still advancing and in the coming hours should announce welcome news,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group.

Witnesses said the air strikes started early in the morning and reported that fighting was ongoing in the afternoon.

Peshmerga forces lost control of the dam on Aug. 7 as ISIS fighters were sweeping the region, conquering one village after another and seizing other key infrastructure such as oil wells.

The dam on the Tigris river, on the southern shores of Mosul lake about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of the city, provides electricity to much of the region and is crucial to irrigation in vast farming areas in Nineveh province.

A 2007 letter to the premier, Nouri al-Maliki, sent by then U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker and the former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, David Petraeus, warned of the consequences of a disaster at the dam, which was assessed to have serious structural weaknesses.

“A catastrophic failure of Mosul dam would result in flooding along the Tigris river all the way to Baghdad,” the letter warned.

However, according to CNN the mission, which was planned in advance, will carry on with both Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces joining on the ground.

CNN citing the Kurdish news agency Rudaw said the joint military operation between the U.S. and Iraq began with U.S. fighter jets carrying out strikes on the seized area.

Meanwhile, residents near Iraq’s Mosul dam said the area was being hit by airstrikes, according to the Associated Press.

ISIS fighters, who had already been running large swathes of neighboring Syria, launched a blistering offensive on June 9 that saw them capture Mosul, Iraq’s second city, and move into much of the country’s Sunni heartland.

In a related story, ISIS militants carried out a “massacre” in the northern Iraq village of Kocho, killing dozens of people, most of them members of the Yazidi religious minority.

Please click link: At least 80 killed in northern Iraq ‘massacre’

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