Water has become the latest weapon in Isis’ arsenal, after militants closed the gates of a dam in western Iraq - allowing them easier access to government forces.
In a move that could expose residents in southern provinces to drought, Isis fighters have redirected the flow of the Euphrates River, to give them better access to government fighters on the southern bank, according to local officials.
The Euphrates has acted as a geographical barrier between Isis fighters who have seized the river’s northern bank, and pro-government forces who are attempting to move closer to Ramadi from the other side.
Isis fighters recently claimed Ramadi, which is the capital of Anbar province, as part of their so-called Islamic State.
A spokesman for the governor of Anbar province said security forces would now have to regroup along the river to stop the insurgents from infiltrating.
“Previously they had to monitor only the bridges and certain areas, but now all of the river will be crossable,” Hikmat Suleiman told Reuters.
By partially closing the dam, the fighters have forced water into a tributary running south to the Habbaniya lake, officials said.
However, the insurgents have left two of the dam’s gates open, in an apparent effort to stop areas under their control from flooding, residents of Ramadi and a local irrigation official told Reuters.
Falih al-Essawi, a senior provincial security official, said the government had opened another dam to channel water from the Habbaniya Lake back into the Euphrates and prevent shortages in the southern provinces.
However, he warned that the measure would only work for three days.
“The government must act immediately otherwise dire consequences and an environmental catastrophe will be inevitable,” he said.
Isis fighters are harnessing the tactic after they seized Mosul dam in northern Iraq last summer, and threatened to immerse Baghdad in water before Kurdish forces and a US-led coalition drove them away from the city.
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