8 Sep 2014

US air strikes clear IS fighters from key Haditha Dam

Barack Obama says he will outline a plan to defeat Islamic State extremists later this week, as pro-Iraqi forces say US air strikes wiped out IS fighters targeting the strategic Haditha Dam.

Photo: a Kurdish peshmerga fighter takes up position at the front line against IS, at Khazir near Mosul (R)

Photo: a Kurdish peshmerga fighter takes up position at the front line against IS, at Khazir near Mosul

US warplanes carried out five strikes on Islamic State (IS) insurgents threatening Iraq’s Haditha dam on Sunday, said witnesses and officials, marking a widening of Washington’s offensive into Anbar, the west of Iraq, since it started attacks on IS forces in the north of Iraq in August.

The leader of a pro-Iraqi government paramilitary force in western Iraq said the air strikes wiped out an Islamic State patrol trying to attack the dam – Iraq’s second biggest hydroelectric facility that also provides millions with water.

“They (the air strikes) were very accurate. There was no collateral damage … If IS had gained control of the dam, many areas of Iraq would have been seriously threatened, even (the capital) Baghdad,” Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha told Reuters.

US ‘game plan’

On Sunday, Mr Obama told American broadcaster NBC that it was time to go on the offensive and that he would announce a “game plan” for how to defeat Isis in a speech on Wednesday, after seeking support from Congress on Tuesday. He said this was “not the equivalent of the Iraq war”, but said the offensive would involve something “similar to the kinds of counter-terrorism campaigns that we’ve been engaging in consistently over the last five, six, seven years.”

IS has seized expanses of northern Iraq and eastern Syria and declared a border-blurring religious caliphate. Mr Obama has branded the group as an acute threat to the West as well as the Middle East, and said that key Nato allies were ready to back Washington in tackling the group.

The US military said in a statement that the strikes destroyed four IS Humvees, four IS armed vehicles, two of which were carrying antiaircraft artillery, an IS fighting position, one IS command post and an IS defensive fighting position. All aircraft left the strike areas safely, the Pentagon said.