Terrorists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seized control of Iraq's biggest dam, an oilfield, and three more towns Sunday after inflicting their first major defeat on Kurdish forces since sweeping through the region in June.
Capture of the Mosul Dam after an offensive of barely 24 hours could give the takfiri terrorists the ability to flood major Iraqi cities.
ISIL or the Islamic State, also seized the Ain Zalah oil field, adding to four others already under their control, and three towns.
They faced strong Kurdish resistance only at the start of their latest offensive when taking the town of Zumar. The rebels then hoisted their black flags there, a ritual that usually precedes mass executions of their captured opponents and the imposition of an ideology even al-Qaeda finds excessive.
Sunday's battles have called into question the effectiveness of the Kurdish fighters and have increased pressure on Iraqi leaders to form a power-sharing government capable of countering the Islamic State.
Islamic State fighters attacked Zumar from three directions in pick-up trucks mounted with weapons, defeating Kurdish forces which had poured reinforcements into the town.
The Islamic State later also seized the town of Sinjar, where witnesses said residents had fled after Kurdish fighters put up little resistance against the militants.
On its Twitter site, the Islamic State posted a picture of one of its masked fighters holding up a pistol and sitting at the abandoned desk of the mayor of Sinjar. Behind him was the image of a famous Kurdish guerilla leader.
In a statement on its website, Islamic State said its fighters had killed scores of Kurdish fighters.
"Hundreds fled leaving vehicles and a huge number of weapons and munitions and the brothers control many areas," Islamic State said. "The fighters arrived in the border triangle between Iraq, Syria and Turkey," it said.
Islamic State has systematically blown up Shia mosques and shrines in territory it has seized, fueling levels of sectarian violence not seen since a 2006-2007 civil war.
The al-Qaeda offshoot, which swept through northern Iraq in June almost unopposed by Iraq's U.S.-trained army, poses the biggest challenge to the stability of the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Islamic State has stalled in its drive to reach Baghdad, halting just north of the town of Samarra, 100 km (62 miles) north of the capital.
ISIL changed its name earlier this year and declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria. The group has already seized four oil fields, which help fund its operations.
The group has been trying to consolidate its gains, setting its sights on strategic towns near oil fields, as well as border crossings with Syria so that it can move easily back and forth and transport supplies.
Advances in campaign against ISIL
Meanwhile, Iraqi army forces backed by thousands of volunteers pushed ahead with their campaign against takfiri militants in several areas of the country, inflicting losses on the terrorists.
On Saturday, the Iraqi military successfully thwarted a militant attack on the Baiji oil refinery, located 180 kilometers (112 miles) north of the capital, Baghdad, following heavy clashes with ISIL terrorists near the facility, Press TV reported.
Baiji refinery is Iraq’s largest and produces a third of Iraq’s oil output. It has been the scene of a week of fighting between Iraqi forces and Takfiri militants.
The ISIL transferred its wounded members to the Baiji hospital, where local citizens were forced to donate blood to the injured militants.
Moreover, the Iraqi army has confirmed that 127 militants were killed following airstrikes in the provinces of Salaheddin, Nineveh and al-Anbar.
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