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U.S. launches airstrikes in Iraq in effort to retake Mosul dam

The U.S. military released video of targeted airstrikes near the Mosul Dam in Iraq over the weekend. The strikes conducted Sunday damaged or destroyed several Islamic State assets, including armored vehicles and Humvees, according to U.S. Central Command. (CENTCOM via YouTube)

U.S. officials say a mix of fighter planes and remotely piloted aircraft have attacked Islamic State militants near the Iraqi city of Irbil and the Mosul Dam.

In a statement, U.S. Central Command said the airstrikes Saturday were launched under the authority to support humanitarian efforts in Iraq, as well as to protect U.S. personnel and facilities.

Central Command said the nine airstrikes destroyed or damaged four armored personnel carriers, seven armed vehicles, two Humvees and an armored vehicle.

The Islamic State group captured Mosul Dam, in northern Iraq on the Tigris River, on Aug. 7. Residents living near the dam, which is Iraq’s largest, say the airstrikes killed militants, but that could not immediately be confirmed. The residents spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear for their safety.

Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled this month when the Islamic State captured the town of Sinjar, near the Syrian border.

The U.S. military released video of airstrikes on Islamic State's targets near Mosul Dam on Saturday. This video shows a U.S. airstrike on an Islamic State Humvee. (CENTCOM via YouTube)

The plight of the Yazidis motivated U.S. and Iraqi forces to launch aid drops. It also contributed to the U.S. decision to launch airstrikes against the militants, who were advancing on the Kurdish regional capital Irbil.

But the Islamic State remains in control of vast swaths of northeastern Syria and northern and western Iraq, and the scale of the humanitarian crisis prompted the U.N. to declare its highest level of emergency last week. Some 1.5 million people have been displaced by fighting since the Islamic State’s rapid advance began in June.

The decision to launch airstrikes marked the first direct U.S. military intervention in Iraq since the last troops withdrew in 2011 and reflected growing international concern about the extremist group.

The United States was not alone in its efforts to ease the dangers in the region.

On Saturday, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said it deployed a U.S.-made spy plane over northern Iraq to monitor the humanitarian crisis and movements of the militants. The converted Boeing KC-135 tanker, called a Rivet Joint, was to monitor mobile phone calls and other communication.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was in Baghdad on Saturday, where he announced that his government would provide more than 24 million euros ($32.2 million) in humanitarian aid to Iraq.

Also Saturday, two British planes landed in Irbil carrying humanitarian supplies.

Iraqi children, displaced by the siege of Mount Sinjar by Islamic State militants, speak of the lives they left behind. (Reuters)


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