Sunni militants appeared on Thursday to have captured the Mosul dam, the largest in Iraq, as their advances in the country’s north created an onslaught of refugees and set off fearful rumors in Erbil, the Kurdish regional capital.
An official in the office of Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish regional government, said Thursday afternoon that Kurdish forces, or pesh merga, were still fighting for control of the dam. But several other sources, including residents of the area and a Kurdish security official, said it had already been captured by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, a potentially catastrophic development for Iraq’s civilian population.
The dam, which sits on the Tigris River and is about 30 miles northwest of the city of Mosul, provides electricity to Mosul and controls the water supply for a large amount of territory. A report published in 2007 by the United States government, which had been involved with work on the dam, warned that should it fail, a 65-foot wave of water could be unleashed across areas of northern Iraq.
Atheel al-Nujaifi, the governor of Nineveh Province, whose capital is Mosul, said in a telephone interview from northern Iraq, where he has fled, that ISIS had secured the dam after what he called an “organized retreat” of the pesh merga. . .