ISIS capture Iraq’s largest dam

ERBIL (TIP): Sunni militants captured the Mosul dam, the largest in Iraq, on Thursday, August 7, as their advances in the country’s north created an onslaught of refugees and set off fearful rumors in Erbil, the Kurdish regional capital. Residents near the dam and officials in the region confirmed that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, held the dam, a potentially catastrophic development for Iraq’s civilian population.

The dam, which sits on the Tigris River and is about 30 miles northwest of the city of Mosul, provides electricity to Mosul and controls the water supply for a large amount of territory. A report published in 2007 by the United States government, which had been involved with work on the dam, warned that should it fail, a 65-foot wave of water could be unleashed across areas of northern Iraq. Atheel al-Nujaifi, the governor of Nineveh Province, whose capital is Mosul, said in a telephone interview from northern Iraq, where he has fled, that ISIS had secured the dam after what he called an “organized retreat” of Kurdish security forces, known as pesh merga.

ISIS seized Mosul, Iraq’s secondlargest city, on June 10, and began its latest offensive this week. In a statement issued on a social media account believed to belong to the group, it claimed that it had captured the dam and vowed to continue its offensive northward as it consolidates control and continues to realize its goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate that bridges the borders of Syria and Iraq.

“Our Islamic State forces are still fighting in all directions and we will not step down until the project of the caliphate is established, with the will of God,” the statement said. ISIS continued on Thursday to battle pesh merga forces for control of towns east of Mosul, in the direction of Erbil, and civilians hoping to flee the fighting flooded the Erbil airport and swamped the Iraqi Airways office in a futile attempt to get tickets to Baghdad. In the early hours of Thursday, forces from the Kurdish pesh merga left checkpoints guarding several largely Christian settlements east of Mosul because they had been called to defend Kurdish towns closer to Erbil, according to a colonel in the Kurdish Defense Ministry.

Civilians fleeing the fighting in northern Iraq on Wednesday arrived at a Kurdish pesh merga checkpoint between Erbil and Mosul. Credit Adam Ferguson for The New York Times By late Wednesday, Kurdish television was reporting that Mahmour and Gwar, two Kurdish settlements less than 20 miles west of Erbil, had fallen to ISIS. By Thursday morning, a colonel in the pesh merga said that Mahmour had been retaken, while militants remained in control of Gwar. The latest ISIS push followed its pattern of exploratory attacks on the outskirts of an area it wants to take.

On Wednesday, it repelled Kurdish efforts east of Mosul and shelled Qaraqosh, which is one of several largely Christian settlements in the area between Mosul and Erbil, 60 miles to the east. As plumes of smoke drifted across the plains of Nineveh between Mosul and Erbil, panicked residents fled from the settlements there in cars and pickup trucks piled with belongings, creating lines more than half a mile long at checkpoints guarded by the pesh merga. (Agency news)

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