Kurdish forces, backed by US warplanes, Saturday battled to retake Iraq’s largest dam from ISIS jihadist fighters, whose latest atrocity was a massacre in a Yazidi village.
World powers, relieved by the exit of long-time premier Nouri al-Maliki, were flying aid to the displaced and arms to the Kurds.
Kurdish forces attacked the ISIS fighters who wrested the Mosul dam from them a week earlier, a general said. “Kurdish pesh merga, with US air support, have seized control of the eastern side of the dam complex,” Major General Abdelrahman Korini said, saying several jihadists had been killed.
Buoyed by the airstrikes US President Barack Obama ordered last week, the pesh merga have tried to claw back the ground they lost since the start of August.
The dam on the Tigris provides electricity to much of the region and is crucial to irrigation in vast farming areas in Nineveh province.
The capture of the dam would be a significant achievement in a fightback getting international material support.
A day after the European Union foreign ministers encouraged the bloc’s member countries to send arms to the Kurds, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Iraq.
A Yazidi lawmaker and a Kurdish security official meanwhile said ISIS fighters massacred scores of Yazidi men Friday afternoon after seizing the village of Kocho.
ISIS fighters besieged the village for several days and gave its Yazidi residents a deadline to convert to Islam, Yazidi lawmaker Mahma Khalil said. “When the residents refused to do this, the massacre took place,” he said.