Kurdish forces aided by an expanded US air campaign have advanced to within kilometres of Iraq’s largest dam, less than two weeks after it was captured by the Islamic State group.
General Tawfik Desty, a Kurdish commander, on Sunday told the AP news agency that his Peshmerga forces were in control of the eastern part of Mosul dam, and that fighting was still under way.
The claim comes after Kurdish forces took control of Tel Skuf, about 15km east of the dam, as well as the towns of Sharafiya and Batnaya, from the Islamic State group, formerly known as ISIL.
Their advance was aided by US air strikes on Islamic State positions. The US central command said it had launched 14 raids on Sunday, to support “Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defence forces … to combat ISIL” – suggesting its role in northern Iraq had expanded beyond of “supporting humanitarian efforts”.
It said the raids had damaged or destroyed 10 armed vehicles, seven Humvees, two armoured personnel carriers and one checkpoint. The US carried out nine air strikes on Saturday.
The Mosul dam is located on the Tigris and provides electricity to much of the region.
The Islamic State invasion of Iraq has led to the worst violence in Iraq since 2006-2007. The group controls large parts of the west and north of Iraq. It has also seized large parts of Syria as it tries to build a caliphate across several countries.
On Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Islamic State fighters had killed about 700 members of a tribe in eastern Syria.
The monitoring group said the killings took place in several villages home to the Sheitat tribe in Deir Ezzor province. The Observatory said many of the victims were beheaded.