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IS militants capture dam, towns in northern Iraq

Posted on Aug 03 2014 | IANS

Baghdad, Aug 3 : The Islamic State (IS) militants Sunday seized Iraq's largest dam near Mosul, along with many nearby towns, in fierce clashes with the Kurdish forces in northern Nineveh province of the country.

Dozens of militants seized a strategically located dam on the Tigris River, 70 km north of Nineveh's capital Mosul, without fighting with the Kurdish security forces, known as Peshmerga, who were controlling the area, Xinhua reported citing a source as saying.

Earlier, the IS militants took control of Wanna town, near Mosul Dam, after fierce clashes with the Peshmerga fighters that led to their subsequent withdrawal, the source said.

In addition, the Sunni militant group entered Sinjar, 100 km west of Mosul, Sunday after clashes with the Peshmerga.

"The militants raised the black flag of the IS on the buildings of the local government and the town's municipality," the source said.

Thousands of families in the Sinjar town have left their homes to the nearby Sinjar mountain and the city of Zakho in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan.

Separately, Mohammed Ibrahim al-Baiyati, head of security committee of Nineveh province, said the IS militants are in full control of the town of Zumar, near Mosul, since early Saturday after fierce battles with the Peshmerga who controlled the area.

The IS militants also seized many villages around Zumar and nearby small oilfields of Ayn Zala, Butma and others, in addition of taking control of the strategic oil pipelines which Iraq used for pumping crude exported via Turkey.

Al-Baiyati said that fierce clashes are underway Sunday around the town of Rabia, near Syrian border, while thousands of families are leaving their homes toward Peshkhabour and Zakho in Kurdistan region.

Mosul dam, Wanna, Zumar and Sinjar are part of the disputed areas which are ethnically mixed areas of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmans and others.

The Kurds demanded to expand their autonomous region in northern Iraq to include the oil-rich regions around the northern city of Kirkuk and other areas in the provinces of Nineveh, Salahudin and Diyala, but their move is fiercely opposed by the Baghdad government.

Early in June, the Peshmerga took control of the disputed areas, including Kirkuk, after the Iraqi security forces withdrew from their bases following the June 10 blitzkrieg of the Sunni militant groups, comprising mostly of IS militants.

IS, previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), captured swathes of territories in Iraq including cities of Mosul and Tikrit, after clashes broke out with government forces June 10.

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