Kurdish fighters backed by U.S. warplanes pushed back terrorists around Iraq's largest dam on Sunday (Aug 17), as Sunni Arab tribesmen and security forces fought the militants west of Baghdad.
Kurdish fighters were advancing on Mosul dam, which the Islamic State (IS) fighters seized a week ago, but their progress was being hampered by roadside bombs, Kurdish officials said, according to AFP.
The dam on the Tigris river north of Iraq's second city provides electricity and irrigation water for farming to much of the region. Its recapture would be the first major prize won back from the rebels since they launched their shock offensive in early June, routing the security forces across much of northern and western Iraq.
Two months of violence have brought Iraq to the brink of breakup, and world powers relieved by the exit of divisive premier Nuri al-Maliki were sending aid to the hundreds of thousands who have fled their homes as well as arms to the Kurds.
"Half of the Mosul dam area was retaken, the eastern part," said Kawa Khatari, an official of the autonomous Kurdish region's largest party. "They are heading towards Tal Kayf, but the main road was planted with roadside bombs," he added.
Another Kurdish official, Harim Kamal Agha, said the bombs planted by the retreating terrorists were slowing the advance.
The U.S. military said it carried out nine air strikes on Saturday in support of Kurdish forces. U.S. Central Command said warplanes and drones had destroyed or damaged four armored personnel carriers, seven armed vehicles, two Humvees and an armored vehicle.
Buoyed by the air strikes U.S. President Barack Obama ordered last week, Kurdish forces have tried to claw back the ground they have lost since the start of this month, when the jihadists went back on the offensive north, east and west of Mosul.
Kurdish military forces retook three towns on the way to the dam after a series of strikes on the positions of the militants.
Officials told Al-Jazeera that the peshmerga captured Tel Skuf, about 15km east of the Mosul dam, from terrorists early on Sunday morning.
Peshmerga forces have also retaken the towns of Ashrafia and Batnaya.
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