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Iraq Kurds retake Mosul dam from ISIL

BAGHDAD: Iraqi and Kurdish forces recaptured Iraq’s biggest dam from Islamist militants with the help of U.S. air strikes to secure a vital strategic objective in fighting that threatens to break up the country, Kurdish and U.S. officials said on Monday.

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U.S. fighter, bomber and drone aircraft took part in the strikes on Islamic State positions near the Mosul Dam, the Pentagon said. The strikes damaged or destroyed six armed vehicles, a light armoured vehicle and other equipment.

The dam had given the militants control over power and water supplies, and any breach of the vulnerable structure would have threatened thousands of lives.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Iraqi and Kurdish forces had retaken the dam with U.S. help. U.S. air strikes this month are the first in Iraq since the United States pulled out in 2011

“This operation demonstrates that Iraqi and Kurdish forces are capable of working together in taking the fight to ISIS (Islamic State), and if they continue to do so they will have the strong support of the United States of America,” Obama told a news conference.

As fighting intensified, Islamic State militants were said to have killed dozens of Kurdish fighters and captured 170 of them, according to a Twitter site that supports the group.

The Islamists’ seizure of the Mosul hydroelectric dam in northern Iraq this month marked a stunning setback for Baghdad’s Shi’ite-led authorities and raised fears the militants could cut electricity and water, or even blow up the shaky structure, causing huge loss of life and damage down the Tigris river valley.

“The failure of the Mosul Dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, threaten U.S. personnel and facilities – including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad – and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace,” a senior U.S. administration official said in Washington.

Iraqi officials hailed what they said was a strategic victory in regaining control of the dam, and announced that the next objective would be to win back Mosul itself, the biggest city in northern Iraq which lies 40 km (25 miles) downstream-Reuters

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