FoxNews on August 17, 2014, reported that the U.S. military increased its air attack on Islamic State near the Iraqi city of Irbil and the Mosul Dam — launching 14 strikes as part of a joint military effort to retake the critical dam from the militant group, U.S. officials said. Excerpts below:
The weekend attacks were launched as Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters mount an extensive ground operation to retake the dam, the largest in Iraq.
Fighter planes and drones have conducted at least 23 air strikes this weekend near the dam, in an urgent effort to recapture the facility from the violent militant group before members either let it fall into disrepair or intentionally open the gates and send a wave of floodwater into the nearby cities of Irbil and Mosul.
Gen. Tawfik Desty, a commander with the Kurdish forces at the dam, said his troops now control the eastern part of the dam and that fighting continues.
U.S. defense sources tell Fox News the fighting is far from over and that a “lengthy, multi-phase operation” will likely be needed to fully retake the dam.
In addition, a senior U.S. official said the effort to retake the dam is mostly a Kurdish Peshmerga operation.
The dam, which supplies water and electricity to northern Iraq, was seized on August 7 by the Islamic State, the militant group formerly known as ISIS.
A high-level Kurdish official in the Mosul area told Fox News that the Peshmerga fighters on August 17 also retook the town of Teleskof, in northern Iraq, and a few other surrounding villages.
The air strikes also included bomber planes and are part of the larger humanitarian effort to help Americans in Iraq and those being killed by Islamic State militants for their religious beliefs, according to U.S. Central Command.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden called the dam a “critical infrastructure site” and said the targeted strikes are part of the United States’ ongoing campaign against Islamic State.
The Kurdish-led offensive against the dam came amid reports of another massacre by Islamic State militants.
Islamic State killed 82 to 90 Yazidi men and abducted their wives and children on August 16, U.S. officials confirmed.
A senior U.S. defense official told Fox News that U.S. surveillance drones saw evidence of the massacre of dozens of Yazidi men. The U.S. military later struck two militant targets, killing some of those involved in the killings, the source said.
Iraqi and Yazidi leaders say the brutal Islamic State fighters have buried Yazidi men alive, killed children and kidnapped women to be slaves.
“We have striking evidence obtained from Yazidis fleeing Sinjar and some who escaped death, and also crime scene images that show indisputably that the gangs of the Islamic States have executed at least 500 Yazidis after seizing Sinjar,” Sudani told Reuters on August 17.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.