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Iraq forces retake Mosul Dam; militants deny claim


BAGHDAD (AP) -- Boosted by two days of U.S. airstrikes, Iraqi and Kurdish forces on Monday wrested back control of the country's largest dam from Islamic militants, a military spokesman in Baghdad said as fighting was reported to be underway for the rest of the strategic complex.

Soon after the news broke, the Islamic State group, which two weeks ago captured the Mosul Dam spanning the Tigris River just north of the city of Mosul, denied the claim, insisting it was still in control of the facility.

The retaking of the dam would mark the first major victory for the Iraqi and Kurdish forces battling the Islamic militants since U.S. airstrikes began earlier this month.

Kurds 'Break IS Hold on Mosul Dam'

It could significantly boost their morale as they try to free territory overrun by the Islamic State in a blitz this summer. Also, the dam and its broader complex hold great strategic value as they supply electricity and water to a large part of the country.

Army spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said the dam itself was secured by Kurdish peshmerga troops and Iraqi security forces on Monday but that the southern side of the complex remains contested and that fierce fighting is underway to free that area.

At least 170 bombs have been dismantled around the dam but many more remain, al-Moussawi added in a televised statement.

Al-Moussawi said the Iraqi and Kurdish forces "hoisted the Iraqi flag over" the dam. He added that the troops were backed by a joint aerial support but didn't specify whether there were any U.S. airstrikes in the area of the dam Monday.

Local residents and others in the area could not immediately be contacted to confirm the security forces' recapture of the dam.

Iraq's Ministry of Defense said security forces "liberated a large part of the Mosul Dam" with the help of U.S. airstrikes, adding that forces are working to fully free the entire complex. U.S. Central Command would not immediately confirm any involvement.

However, a senior Kurdish commander told The Associated Press that his peshmerga forces had withdrawn from the dam complex on Monday afternoon because it was heavily rigged with explosives. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to media.

In an Internet statement, the Islamic State denied losing control of the dam, dismissing the government claim as "mere propaganda war." The statement, which could not be independently verified, was posted on a website frequently used by the militants.

The U.S. launched airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq more than a week ago in a bid to halt its advance across the north. The U.S. military said U.S. forces conducted nine strikes Saturday and another 16 on Sunday.

The dam's seizure by Islamic State militants on Aug. 7 was part of a string of victories by the Sunni radical group as it looks to expand its hold in northern Iraq, driving back Kurdish forces, sending minority communities fleeing and unleashing a wave of violence over a territory straddling the Syria-Iraq border.

The decision to launch airstrikes marked the first direct U.S. military intervention in Iraq since the last American troops withdrew in 2011 and reflected growing international concern about the extremist group.

The White House sent a letter to Congress on Sunday saying that its air campaign in Iraq "is consistent with the president's directive that the U.S. military protect U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq, since the failure of the Mosul Dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians and threaten U.S. personnel and facilities - including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad."

It also noted that the failure of the dam could "prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services" to the Iraqi people.

Some 1.5 million people have been displaced by fighting in Iraq since the Islamic State's rapid advance began in June. The scale of the humanitarian crisis prompted the U.N. to declare its highest level of emergency lasts week.

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Gregg August 18 2014 at 8:54 AM

Backing the Kurd is a good idea plus they are non muzzies.

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4 replies
vtmichaelb August 18 2014 at 8:31 AM

Kurds are amazing, tortured and murdered by Saddam, then abandoned twice the U.S. and yet they are still willing to put their lives on the line looking out for the safety and welfare of others! Good stuff!

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John August 18 2014 at 8:46 AM

Obama is the new Carter. He is useless as a Commander in Chief and will end us destroying the US military and allow terrorists, Russia and China to take huge pieces of the planet. We will be next. Blame Obama for the deaths in your family caused by his incompetence.

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3 replies
S321Saint August 18 2014 at 12:26 PM

Remember folks, ISIS is a group of brain dead, islamist heretics who are living in a dream world where they think the world would be bettter off in their control. The only way to defeat ISIS is to take them out entirely. They are quite willing to blow up the dam and killing hundreds of thousands of people and ruin the country than admit they are stupid and ignorant heretics that would be better off living in the desert tending water holes

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ram4131 August 18 2014 at 11:27 AM

The fact that ISIS set charges all around the dam to destroy it again shows there is nothing they won't do to continue to be a cancer on this planet. Glad the military has begun treatment.

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Trapper August 18 2014 at 9:03 AM

If the rumor are true, now we are getting somewhere. The Iraqis have to fight this war not us. The Kurds seem to have the momentum now and with aid from us and others to fight the war, they can win. It is ironic that 3 yrs ago the Iraqis wanted to see the back of us - now we are viewed as heroes coming to their rescue. Times change and so does attitudes. Sounds more like day one when we entered Iraq - flowers for the liberators!

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1 reply
rickyg64 Trapper August 18 2014 at 9:12 AM

If we stayed this would not have gone this far, to win this will take the US involvment on many levels. The iraqis will win its a matter of which ones. Its like a horror move, you know they kill the bad guy walk away and to their surprise the once thought dead killer awakes to kill again. All the while your screaming at the screen don't turn your back he's not dead.

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1 reply
kimmer0310 rickyg64 August 18 2014 at 9:31 AM

Good post and 100% true. This was completely avoidable.

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dal August 18 2014 at 11:38 AM

Ok is you could stop shooting your guns into the air and save that ammo for winning the battle.

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vincentpricehowell August 18 2014 at 9:47 AM

After taking hits, every enemy is not going to tell the truth. But with Obama, the people of the US, don't know what the truth is either. We are informed, on the same level as ISIS. Remember Bergdahl was a hero, until we really found out the story, and there's probably still more there.

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1 reply
john vincentpricehowell August 18 2014 at 10:53 AM

I haven't heard the Bergdahl story, when did it come out? Is that your only example of a lack of truth?

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abqduk August 18 2014 at 9:34 AM

I am sure Obama will take ALL the credit for this

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Stanley August 18 2014 at 11:17 AM

Amazing what a few Special Forces can do to help with battle plans and the prosecution of those plans!

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1 reply
bduychak Stanley August 18 2014 at 12:00 PM

Amen. My husband is an Army RANGER.

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