SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association)-Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Iraqi counter-terrorism forces have pushed terrorists of the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) out of Mosul dam, state television reported on Monday.
The television station quoted Lieutenant-General Qasim Atta, a military spokesman, as saying the forces were backed by a joint air patrol. He did not give details. An independent verification was not immediately possible.
ISIL militants have seized several towns and oilfields as well as Mosul Dam in recent weeks, possibly giving them the ability to flood cities or cut off water and electricity supplies.
Asked about a Kurdish push to dislodge the militants on Sunday, a Kurdish official said they had not retaken the dam itself but had seized “most of the surrounding area”.
ISIL militants have told residents in the area to leave, according to an engineer who works at the site.
The engineer said the militants told him they were planting roadside bombs along roads leading in and out of the facility, possibly in fear of an attack by Kurdish fighters who have been bolstered by U.S. airstrikes.
U.S. planes – deployed over Iraq because of the ISIL’s advances for the first time since the U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011 – had been striking targets near Mosul Dam over the last 24 hours, peshmerga spokesman Halgurd Hikmat said.
The White House said on Sunday that President Barack Obama had informed Congress he authorized U.S. air strikes in Iraq to help retake control of the Mosul Dam, which it said was consistent with his goal of protecting U.S. citizens in the country.
U.S. officials said last week the U.S. government was directly supplying weapons to Kurdish peshmerga fighters.
Witnesses said Kurdish forces have recaptured the mainly Christian towns of Batmaiya and Telasqaf, 30 km (18 miles) from Mosul, the closest they have come to the city since ISIL terrorists drove government forces out in June.
The insurgents have also tightened their security checkpoints in Mosul, conducting more intensive inspections of vehicles and identification cards, witnesses said.
The European Union has allowed individual EU governments to supply arms and ammunition to Iraqi Kurds, provided they have the consent of authorities in Baghdad. Washington is already supplying weapons.
Kurdish militants have also trained hundreds of Yazidi volunteers at several camps inside Syria to fight ISIL forces in Iraq, a member of the armed Kurdish YPG and a Reuters photographer who visited a training camp said on Sunday.
The photographer spend Saturday at one training camp in northeastern Syria where he saw 55 Yazidis being trained to fight.