Erbil and Ramadi, Asharq Al-Awsat—A spokesman for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) said on Sunday evening that Kurdish Peshmerga fighters backed by US air power had retaken control of Iraq’s biggest dam from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Saeed Mamo Zinni told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Peshmerga forces took back the Mosul Dam on Sunday evening after more than 20 airstrikes over the weekend by US aircraft and drones. Peshmerga forces also recaptured Tel Isqof, Batmaia, Manara, Tall ‘Adas and other areas, inflicting heavy casualties on ISIS in the process, he said.
The dam, which supplies water and electricity to northern Iraq, has become a focal point of international attention in recent days, amid fears that ISIS could use its control of the facility to cut of electricity or flood areas further downstream, including the city of Mosul.
Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Halgurd Hikmat, spokesman of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Peshmerga Ministry, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Peshmerga forces “made great progress from the start of the attacks and took back control of Tel Isqof and the village of Qura Risala, and the areas behind the dam.”
He said US power played an active role in supporting the Peshmerga attack on the dam, but admitted that the Kurdish fighters had advanced slowly due to the number of mines and booby-traps laid by the ISIS fighters in the combat zone.
ISIS issued a statement denying Kurdish claims, and said its fighters had driven off the Peshmerga, inflicting heavy losses.
Despite the conflicting reports, other Iraqi officials remained upbeat. Bashar Kiki, head of the Nineveh Governorate Council, said: “Peshmerga forces retook around 90 percent of the Tall Kayf area north of Mosul and I expect a wide-scale land operation to start in the next few days to retake Sinjar, Zammar and Rabia after taking control of the dam.”
ISIS seized a swath of territory west of Mosul at the beginning of August, sparking a humanitarian crisis as thousands of members of Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority attempted to flee to safety.
ISIS reportedly views the groups as “devil worshippers,” and is alleged to have carried out a number of massacres of Yazidis who refused to convert to Islam.
Speaking about the situation in Mosul, Kiki added that “ISIS is calling on the locals to volunteer to fight for their forces. The city’s hospital is full of their injured and the airstrikes have had a great effect on ISIS and weakened its resistance and attack ability. Therefore, they are now on the retreat and their resistance against the Peshmerga has been weakened, especially in the knowledge that the Peshmerga have received advanced weapons.”
Meanwhile, the commander of the police in Iraq’s Anbar province, Maj. Gen. Ahmad Al-Dulaimi, told the French news agency AFP that Sunni tribal forces were taking part in joint operations with the security forces in order to expel ISIS.
Dulaimi said: “For the third day running, the tribes’ support of security forces continued in villages west of Ramadi,” adding that “hundreds of tribal fighters joined the police and army forces and helped take control of a number of areas.”
Dulaimi added that tribal forces, supported by security forces, killed eight insurgents in Boukanaan village, and captured a number of 4×4 vehicles along with heavy weapons.
Meanwhile, Iraqi army spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim Atta, said on Sunday that Iraqi forces had repelled an ISIS attack on the city of Haditha, site of another dam which supplies a significant portion of Iraq’s electricity.