US Hits IS US Hits IS Near Key Dam

US Hits IS  US Hits IS Near Key DamUS Hits IS  US Hits IS Near Key Dam

The US military launched airstrikes targeting ISIS fighters around a key dam in western Iraq on Sunday, the Pentagon said. It carried out the airstrikes near Haditha Dam at the request of Iraq, according to Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.

A failure of the dam -- the second-largest in the country -- would prove catastrophic. It provides water to millions of people in western and southern Iraq

It is also feared that the militants could use the water to flood villages and seize control of the nation's lucrative electricity industry.

"We conducted these strikes to prevent terrorists from further threatening the security of the dam, which remains under control of Iraqi security forces -- with support from Sunni tribes," CNN quotes Kirby as saying.

Members of the terror group ISIS, which refers to itself as the Islamic State, have turned the nation's dams into war weapons.

Earlier this year, ISIS fighters opened the gates of Falluja dam in an effort to stop an Iraqi military advance. Water from the dam flooded a series of villages.

US forces have kept an eye on Haditha Dam on the Euphrates River, where Iraqi troops held off an ISIS assault last month. The Pentagon said operations will continue to ensure Iraqi forces maintain control of the dam.

"Potential loss of control of the dam or a catastrophic failure of the dam -- and the flooding that might result -- would have threatened US personnel and facilities in and around Baghdad, as well as thousands of Iraqi citizens," Kirby said in a statement.

Iraqi Kurds Retake Strategic Mountain 

Meanwhile, Kurdish forces in northern Iraq have recaptured a strategically important mountain from Islamic State (IS) militants, helped by US air strikes.

Mount Zartak overlooks a plain that stretches to Mosul, the city seized by IS in June. The mountain fell to the Islamists last month when they staged a lightning attack on Iraqi Kurdistan.

Since then Kurdish "peshmerga" fighters have been slowly pushing back, assisted by US air power. Mosul is a mainly Sunni city which Kurdish forces say they do not intend to recapture on their own. According to BBC, Mount Zartak was retaken in a short, sharp battle that left more than 30 IS fighters dead

Nearby villages still occupied by the IS militants are now at the mercy of Kurdish guns that dominate the entire plain of Nineveh, BBC correspondent reported.

The commander of the Kurdish elite commandos who took the mountain, Gene Aziz Oweisi, told the BBC that its capture was important, not only for the defense of Kurdistan.

"For the Iraqis it's important too because it's a step towards taking back Mosul," he said.

Last week, Iraqi state media said senior Islamic State military commander Abu Alaa al-Iraqi had been killed in an air strike on Mosul, along with an aide to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Neither death has been confirmed.

IS, also known as Isis, has taken over swathes of Iraq and Syria in recent months, declaring the land it holds a "caliphate".

The United Nations and human rights groups have accused IS of committing atrocities, including mass killings of ethnic and religious minorities.