UK & World News

  • 18 August 2014, 8:34

Iraq: Kurdish Forces Fight To Retake Mosul Dam

Kurdish forces have retaken parts of Iraq's Mosul Dam from Islamic State (IS) fighters, according to a security official.

General Tawfik Desty said that Kurdish Peshmerga forces, backed by Iraqi and US warplanes, launched the operation to retake the dam on Sunday morning.

Gen Desty said his forces were now in control of the eastern side of the dam and that fighting was continuing, after it was seized by IS fighters 10 days ago.

The dam provides electricity to much of the region and is crucial to irrigation across vast areas of farming.

Another Kurdish commander said the Kurdish advance was being hindered by roadside bombs planted by retreating Islamic State (IS) fighters.

"They are advancing slowly. The obstacles are the roadside bombs. It's a Daash tactic," he said, referring to the Islamic State by an Arabic acronym.

"They have reached inside the dam. There is no fighting, just the (roadside) bombs, and the abandoned buildings are all rigged with explosives."

The White House said President Barack Obama had informed Congress he authorised the airstrikes to help the Kurdish forces retake control of the dam.

A White House statement said the failure of the dam could threaten the lives of civilians, as well as US personnel and facilities - including the embassy in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, a group of Peshmerga told Sky News' special correspondent Alex Crawford that they need advanced military hardware with which to fight.

They said they were still waiting for arms to arrive from abroad, despite promises from EU foreign ministers.

The US began airstrikes a week ago after IS fighters swept across a large part of northern and central Iraq, seizing Mosul and threatening Baghdad and Irbil.

Hundreds of Yazidi men in the north were said to have been "massacred".

In another development, displaced Yazidis, who fled to Syria, have taken up military training and are "seeking revenge".

Sheikh Khalah Sheikh Alyas, head of a Yazidi training camp in Qamishli, Syria, said: "The insurgents of the Islamic State killed our young people and took our women and girls and then displaced us, therefore we came here.

"I called on Yazidi young men to volunteer to take revenge and they came in large numbers. Only yesterday and today we received about 55 men.

"Some of these people have come from refugee camps and others have come directly from the mountain after leaving their families at the camps. They came of their own free will."

Local officials and witnesses said IS fighters killed almost 400 Yazidi men in the village of Kocho and abducted their wives and children over two days.

IS fighters besieged the village 12 days ago and gave its residents a deadline to convert to Islam, according to Yazidi politician Mahma Khalil.

Around 1.5 million people in northern Iraq have been displaced by the fighting since the IS insurgency took hold.

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