Sunni militants from the Islamic State group on Thursday seized Iraq’s largest dam, placing them in control of enormous power and water resources and access to the river that runs through the heart of Baghdad.
After a week of attempts, the armed gunmen successfully stormed the Mosul Dam and forced Kurdish forces to withdraw from the area, according to residents living near the dam. They spoke anonymously for safety concerns.
The Islamic State group posted a statement online, confirming that they had taken control of the dam and vowed to continue “the march in all directions,” adding that it not give up the great Caliphate project.”
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The statement could not be verified but it was posted on a site frequently used by the group. Officials from the autonomous Kurdish region that has the only forces opposing the extremists in the north, did not respond to calls. The al-Qaida-breakaway group since its idea of an Islamic state in territory it controls in Iraq and Syria, imposing its own harsh interpretation of Islamic law.
Iraqi government forces, Kurds and allied Sunni tribal militiamen have been struggling to dislodge the Islamic State militants with little apparent success. The Mosul Dam or Saddam Dam as it was once known is located north of Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul, which fell to the militants on June 10.
Fighting intensified in the region today after the nearby towns of Zumar and Sinjar fell to the militants. Seizing of the dams and the large reservoirs gives the militants control over water and electricity that they could use to help build support in the territory they now rule by providing the scarce resources to residents. Or they could sell the resources as a lucrative source of revenue.