Backed by US airstrikes, Iraqi and Kurdish forces today wrested back control of the country's largest dam from Islamic militants, a military spokesman in Baghdad said, as fighting was reported to be underway for the rest of the strategic complex.
Soon after the news broke, the Islamic State group, which two weeks ago captured the Mosul Dam spanning the Tigris River just north of the city of Mosul, denied the claim, insisting it was still in control of the facility. A US defence official in Washington confirmed the Islamic State group has not entirely lost control of the Mosul Dam.
"It's not over," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing military operations. The retaking of the dam would mark the first major victory for the Iraqi and Kurdish forces battling the Islamic militants since US airstrikes began earlier this month.
However, the conflicting accounts that emerged today underscored the fluid nature of the situation as Kurdish and Iraqi forces try to reassert themselves after weeks of setbacks. Retaking the dam could significantly boost their morale as they try to free territory overrun by the Islamic State in a blitz this summer.
The dam and its broader complex hold great strategic value as they supply electricity and water to a large part of the country. Army spokesman Lt Gen Qassim al-Moussawi said the dam itself was secured by Kurdish peshmerga troops and Iraqi security forces today but that the southern side of the complex remains contested and that fierce fighting is underway to free that area.
At least 170 bombs have been dismantled around the dam but many more remain, al-Moussawi added in a televised statement. He said that militants fled to areas near the south of the complex, hiding in homes and Al-Moussawi said earlier today that the Iraqi and Kurdish forces "hoisted the Iraqi flag over" the dam. He added that the troops were backed by a joint aerial support but didn't specify whether there were any US airstrikes in the area of the dam on Monday.
Local residents and others in the area could not immediately be contacted to confirm the security forces' recapture of the dam. Iraq's Defense Ministry said security forces "liberated a large part of the Mosul Dam" with the help of US airstrikes, adding that forces are working to fully free the entire complex.
In a statement, US Central Command said it carried out 15 airstrikes near the dam today with fighter jets, bombers and drones.