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U.S. Warplanes, Kurdish Forces Attack Militants At Strategic Iraqi Dam

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, walk toward the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Sinjar Mountain, earlier this week.
Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, walk toward the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Sinjar Mountain, earlier this week.

Kurdish forces backed by U.S. warplanes have launched an attack on militants from the Islamic State in northern Iraq in the area around Mosul dam.

Senior Kurdish military commander General Abdelrahman Korini said on August 16, "Kurdish Peshmerga with U.S. air support have seized control of the eastern side of the dam."

The U.S. military later said it conducted nine air strikes against IS fighters near the Kurdish capital, Arbil, and the Mosul dam, destroying or damaging armored personnel carriers and armed vehicles.

The Mosul dam, some 50 kilometers north of the city of Mosul, provides electricity for much of the region and is critical to agriculture in Nineveh Province.

Islamic State militants captured the dam on August 7.

Since the capture of the dam there have been fears the militants might blow it up and cause flooding that could reach all the way to Baghdad.

General Korini said several of the militants had been killed, that his forces were advancing, and that "the coming hours should announce welcome news."

Witnesses reported fighting started early on August 16 and continued into the afternoon.

Earlier on August 16, Iraqi officials said Islamic State (IS) militants killed at least 80 men, mostly from the minority Yazidis sect.

The attack happened in the village of Kocho, in Nineveh Province, where militants have seized large swaths of territory.

Yazidi lawmaker Mahma Khali told AP that IS fighters attacked the village on August 15.

Halgurd Hekmat, a spokesman for Kurdish security forces, said women and children were captured. They are presumed to have been taken prisoner.

Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's former foreign minister and a prominent Kurdish leader, told AFP that those killed were Yazidis who had not fled their homes. Zebari described the attack as a "massacre."

Several European countries have recently announced their intentions to provide humanitarian aid to the population in the affected area and military help to the Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State militants.

Germany, France, and Britain are among the countries that have already provided immediate relief to refugees in northern Iraq. The United States has also assisted the refugees in northern Iraq.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was in Iraq on August 16, meeting first with Iraqi President Fuad Masum in Baghdad, then traveling to Irbil to meet with the president of the Kurdish region, Masud Barzani.

Steinmeier also met with Yazidi refugees in Irbil.

'IS' Massacres Syrian Tribesmen

A Syrian rights group said militants from the Islamic State have massacred some 700 members of a tribe in eastern Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on August 16 that during the last two weeks the militants have killed hundreds of members of the al-Sheitaat tribe in eastern Syria's Deir al-Zor Province.

The Observatory said most of those killed were civilians.

The militant group had posted videos that showed people being decapitated and their heads place on fence posts.

The al-Sheitaat tribe had a truce with the Islamic State, but the tribesmen said the militants broke the agreement when they killed several members of the al-Sheitaat tribe sometime after the start of the month.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and BBC
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