Islamic State: US launches new air strikes to stop Isis militants seizing key Haditha dam

America is supporting local Sunni fighters (pictured) and Iraqi forces

Click to follow

The US has launched new air strikes against the Islamic State (Isis) at the request of the Iraqi Government to stop the group capturing a strategic dam.

The militants, who have declared a caliphate across the swathes of Iraq and Syria they control, had attempted to gain control of the Haditha dam.

Next to the country’s second-largest reservoir, it has six power generators in a large hydroelectric power station that is crucial to Iraq’s electricity supply.

Officials said that while the dam, in Anbar province, remains in control of the Iraqis, the US is supporting Government forces and local Sunni tribes to hold of the Isis advance.

The Islamist militants briefly controlled Iraq’s largest dam, in Mosul, last month but were eventually beaten back by American air strikes.

“At the request of the Iraqi government and in keeping with our mission to protect US personnel and facilities, US military planes have begun striking Isis terrorists near the Haditha dam,” an official said.

“These strikes are being conducted to prevent the terrorists from further threatening Iraqi security forces.”

In August, militants reportedly closed eight of its 10 lock gates controlling the Euphrates River, flooding land upstream and reducing water levels in southern provinces of Iraq.

The Haditha dam was also a focus of fighting during the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, when the American army seized it amid fears it would be destroyed, causing potentially deadly flooding in downstream towns and villages.

There have been an estimated 130 American air strikes in Iraq since early August and the campaign shows no sign of slowing following threats by the Isis militants who beheaded journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff to kill more Western hostages if the action continues.

Additional reporting by agencies