Iraq ‘clears’ IS from key dam area after US strikes

The US has used an aircraft carrier in the Gulf to launch strikes on IS
The US has used an aircraft carrier in the Gulf to launch strikes on IS.

Originally published in BBC.com

Iraqi government forces say they have cleared Islamic State (IS) militants from a wide area around the strategic Haditha dam, helped by US air strikes.

The jihadists have repeatedly tried to capture the dam on the River Euphrates, in the western province of Anbar.

The US air strikes were the first to have taken place outside northern Iraq.

Meanwhile, Iraq’s parliament is scheduled to convene later on Monday to vote on Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi’s proposed government.

The make-up of the cabinet has not been revealed, but Mr Abadi is expected to include representatives of all religious and ethnic factions.

The BBC’s Jim Muir in Irbil says that should ease tensions between the Shia Arab majority and the Sunni Arab and Kurdish communities, which accused the outgoing administration of pursuing sectarian policies

It should also allow the US to step up its military assistance, which has been conditional on the formation of a unified and inclusive government.

‘Very accurate’
The leader of a pro-Iraqi government Sunni Arab tribal militia in western Iraq, Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, said the air strikes around the Haditha dam had wiped out an IS patrol trying to attack the dam.

“They were very accurate. There was no collateral damage. If Islamic State had gained control of the dam, many areas of Iraq would have been seriously threatened, even Baghdad,” he told the Reuters news agency.

Iraqi forces then launched a “wide attack” against militants to clear the areas surrounding the Haditha district, military spokesman Lt Gen Qassem Atta told the AFP news agency.

Troops and militia also retook Barwana, east of Haditha, from IS fighters, who abandoned their weapons and vehicles while retreating, AFP reported. However, the governor of Anbar, Ahmed al-Dulaimi, was wounded by an explosion shortly after Barwana was retaken.

Jim Muir, BBC News, northern Iraq says:  “The American air attacks, the first of their kind in Anbar province, signal that Washington has crossed a line that it itself drew.

“It has long had a standing request from the outgoing Iraqi government to use its air power against IS in all areas. But until recently, it made it clear it would only do that once a new, inclusive government is formed in Baghdad, with full Sunni representation.

“That hasn’t yet happened, though intensive efforts are under way to produce a new cabinet soon – possibly on Monday.”

Haditha dam is Iraq’s second biggest hydroelectric facility and also provides millions with water.

IS fighters have targeted a number of Iraqi dams, capturing the facility at Falluja in April. In August they took the country’s largest dam, at Mosul, but US air strikes helped force them out later that month.

Most of the casualties in Dhuluiya were caused by a suicide car bomber who reportedly targeted a meeting between security forces and members of Sunni al-Jabour tribe.

One security source told Reuters that gunboats were also used in the attack, which began before dawn and continued for two hours.

US President Barack Obama will on Wednesday reveal his strategy to combat IS, which has announced the creation of a “caliphate”, or Islamic state, in the large swathes of Iraq and Syria under its control.

But he stressed that there was “not going to be an announcement about US ground troops”.

The secretary general of the Arab League meanwhile urged its members to confront Islamic State on all possible levels.

What was required from member states was a “clear and firm decision for a comprehensive confrontation” with “cancerous and terrorist” groups, Nabil al-Arabi told a meeting of foreign ministers in Cairo.

Comments are closed.