The US has conducted fresh airstrikes on the "Islamic State." President Barack Obama says the assistance to Iraqi forces fighting to regain control of the Mosul Dam are in line with objectives to protect US interests.
Fighter, bomber and drone aircraft carried out Monday's strikes, the Pentagon announced in a statement. Since August 8, the US military has conducted a total of 68 airstrikes in Iraq, according to the Pentagon. Of those, 35 have supported Iraqi forces near the Mosul Dam.
"The failure of the Mosul Dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians and threaten US personnel and facilities - including the US Embassy in Baghdad," Obama wrote to Congress on Sunday. The US president added that failing to take the dam back from the "Islamic State" (IS) could worsen the humanitarian situation, and "prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services."
The US launched nine airstrikes Saturday and 14 Sunday to clear way for Kurdish fighters (pictured). The attacks included the first reported use of land-based bombers in the military campaign so far.
"Mosul Dam was liberated completely," Ali Awni, an official from Iraq's main Kurdish party, told the news agency AFP Sunday. However, IS insists that it maintains control.
Lieutenant General Qassim al-Moussawi said Iraqi forces and Kurdish peshmerga secured the dam Monday, but that part remained contested and fierce fighting continued. In his televised statement, al-Moussawi added that security services had dismantled at least 170 bombs around the dam but that many still remained and that IS fighters had fled to areas near the south of the complex, hiding in homes.
According to the White House, the heightened military operations over the weekend were undertaken in coordination with Iraq's government and would be limited "in their nature, duration and scope." Two months of fighting have brought Iraq to the brink of breakup, with much of the violence concentrated in Kurdistan. The rapid advance of IS across large swaths of Iraq has driven tens of thousands of minority Christians and Yazidis from their homes.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that about 600,000 Iraqis fleeing violence by IS have found refuge in Kurdish areas. Some 200,000 escaped the Sinjar area this month after it fell to IS. Most come from the Yazidi religious minority.
mkg/ws (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)