The US military has confirmed that it carried out airstrikes against “Islamist State” targets near the Kurdish capital, Irbil, and Iraq’s largest dam. Officials said the strikes were in US and humanitarian interests.
The Pentagon confirmed that the US military had used a combination of drones and piloted aircraft to conduct strikes against the “Islamic State” (IS) militant group.
US Central Command said on Saturday that nine airstrikes had been conducted, with armored personnel carriers and other vehicles either destroyed or damaged. It said the strikes were carried out to support humanitarian efforts and protect US interests.
At least 20 militants were killed in the air strikes near the dam, the Kurdish military said, with warplanes targeting gatherings of insurgents along the facility.
A Kurdish official told the AFP news agency on Saturday that Peshmerga fighters, with the help of US air support, had retaken control of the eastern side of the dam complex.
“All aircraft exited the strike areas safely,” Central Command said. There were no significant details about the operations near Irbil.
Fears dam could become weapon
IS fighters captured Mosul Dam, which is on the Tigris River and is Iraq’s largest dam, earlier this month. The dam on, on the southern shores of Lake Mosul, lies some 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of the city and provides electricity to much of the region, as well as being crucial to irrigation in Nineveh province.
There are fears that fighters might – if desperate – use the damn as a weapon by threatening flooding as far as the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. However, with Mosul under IS control, such a move would at present prove counterproductive.
In recent weeks, the militants have overrun several towns where minority Christians and Yezidis live, triggering an exodus. Others, living in besieged towns and unable to move, have been ordered to convert to Islam or die.
Iraqi and Kurdish officials claim that in a massacre in the small town of Kocho alone, 80 men were shot by militants, with women and children being abducted. Yazidis living nearby claim the number was higher, and that the same atrocities have been carried out in other villages.
Across the border in Syria, the militants are alleged to have killed some 700 people belonging to a local tribe in the past two weeks. Members of the Shueitat tribe were branded as infidels after refusing to accept IS rule, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
rc/av (AP, AFP, Reuters)