by Staff Writers
Baquba, Iraq (AFP) Sept 27, 2014
The Iraqi army and an alliance of Shiite militia groups on Saturday retook a dam northeast of Baghdad after days of fighting believed to have killed dozens, security sources said.
Fighting has been raging for days around Muqdadiyah, in Diyala province, around 90 kilometres (55 miles) from Baghdad, between jihadists from the Islamic State group and pro-government forces.
"We are now in full control of the dam," said an army lieutenant colonel, adding that the final stages of the operation on Saturday had left seven IS militants dead.
A police captain confirmed the toll.
The officers said the final push to retake Muqdadiyah dam involved Iraqi troops and fighters from the Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Badr and Saraya al-Salam Shiite militias.
Government sources in the area have reported high casualties among jihadist ranks over the past few days.
The fighting has also left many dead in pro-government ranks. At least 12 members of the Saraya al-Salam militia killed in the area were buried in the holy Shiite city of Najaf on Thursday alone.
IS fighters have repeatedly attempted to control dams across the country, and in some cases weaponised them by either reducing the flow of water to areas under government control or flooding swathes of land to impede army operations.
The jihadists briefly controlled the dam in Mosul, the country's largest, before Iraqi special forces and Kurdish peshmerga troops backed by US fighters jets retook it in early August.
British warplanes return from Iraq without bombing
Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 combat jets returned to Britain's RAF Akrotiri base on Cyprus without dropping any of their load of Paveway IV laser-guided bombs, after a seven-hour mission that began before dawn from the Mediterranean island.
"On this occasion no targets were identified as requiring immediate air attack by our aircraft," a ministry spokesman said.
However, the jets' surveillance gathered information that will "help acquire potential targets for future operations, either by aircraft or Iraqi ground forces," the spokesman said.
British lawmakers on Friday voted overwhelmingly to join the US-led air strikes in northern Iraq following a formal request for help from the Iraqi government.
Six British Tornados have been based on Cyprus since last month, from where they have been conducting reconnaissance missions, but the vote allows their role to expand to include striking IS targets.
The campaign against the Islamist group gathered pace this week, as Belgium and Denmark agreed to join the bombing and Britain's lower house of parliament voted in favour of air strikes in Iraq.
On Saturday, a fresh round of bombings by the US, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates damaged an IS-held airfield, a garrison and a training camp near the group's headquarters in Raqa, the Pentagon said.
In Iraq, a fighting position and four armed vehicles were hit, it added.
IS's brutal abuses against civilians, rival fighters and Arab and Western hostages, as well as its success in recruiting Western members, have triggered international alarm.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said Saturday the RAF was there to "play our part".
"We are one part of a large international coalition," he said during a visit to Didcot, southern England.
"But the crucial part of that coalition is that it is led by the Iraqi government, the legitimate government of Iraq, and its security forces. We are there to play our part and help deal with this appalling terrorist organisation."
Besides the Tornados, the RAF also has a Rivet Joint spy plane in the region which is stepping up surveillance efforts to identify potential targets.
Iraq: The first technology war of the 21st century
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