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3 Aug, 2014 10:53

Islamic State jihadists seize Iraq's largest dam, 3 towns in offensive vs Kurds

Islamic State jihadists seize Iraq's largest dam, 3 towns in offensive vs Kurds

In the latest battles with Kurdish militia, the extremist Islamic State has captured three towns and an oil field in a major land grab in northern Iraq.

The former branch of Al-Qaeda, which gained worldwide notoriety in June after conducting a lighting offensive crushing the US-trained Iraqi troops, has been trying to enlarge its territory in northern Iraq and consolidate their control.

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With Baghdad’s forces on the run, Kurdish militias have been crucial in containing the militants who want to carve out a fundamental Islamist caliphate from Iraq and Syria. The Islamic State scored several military victories and on Sunday captured the towns of Zumar, Sinjar and Wana.

Zumar, with a nearby oil field and refinery, was the focus of the battle. Kurdish forces poured in reinforcements there, but Islamic State attacked from three directions over the weekend, eventually seizing the strategic site, residents said.

The continued offensive on Sinjar reportedly met little resistance as the Kurdish fighters pulled back. Wana near Mosul Dam and the dam itself were the latest captures in the militants’ offensive.

Mosul Dam is the largest dam in Iraq. It is situated on the Tigris River, 45 miles upstream from Mosul in the north of the country.

The militants earlier took control of four Iraqi oil fields, securing additional funding for their operations in addition to millions of dollars worth of weapons and valuables they captured in June.

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Iraqi Kurdistan has enjoyed a large degree of autonomy during less violent times, when Iraq was wracked by sectarian violence but not half-occupied by the strongest extremist Islamist force in the Middle East.

After the June collapse and a falling out with the government in Baghdad, Kurdish forces seized two oil fields in northern Iraq and took over operations from a state-run oil company.