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Iraq 'clears' IS from key dam area after US strikes

media captionBoth the Iraqi government and Islamic State forces claim to have control of the Haditha dam, as Jim Muir reports from Irbil

Iraqi government forces say they have cleared Islamic State (IS) militants from a wide area around the strategic Haditha dam, helped by US air strikes.

The jihadists have repeatedly tried to capture the dam on the River Euphrates, in the western province of Anbar.

The US air strikes were the first to have taken place outside northern Iraq.

Meanwhile, Iraq's parliament is scheduled to convene later on Monday to vote on Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi's proposed government.

The make-up of the cabinet has not been revealed, but Mr Abadi is expected to include representatives of all religious and ethnic factions.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Irbil says that should ease tensions between the Shia Arab majority and the Sunni Arab and Kurdish communities, which accused the outgoing administration of pursuing sectarian policies.

media captionRafid Jaboori reports from the hall where the new Iraqi government will be inaugurated

It should also allow the US to step up its military assistance, which has been conditional on the formation of a unified and inclusive government.

'Very accurate'

The leader of a pro-Iraqi government Sunni Arab tribal militia in western Iraq, Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, said the air strikes around the Haditha dam had wiped out an IS patrol trying to attack the dam.

"They were very accurate. There was no collateral damage. If Islamic State had gained control of the dam, many areas of Iraq would have been seriously threatened, even Baghdad," he told the Reuters news agency.

image copyrightEPA
image captionThe US has used an aircraft carrier in the Gulf to launch strikes on IS
image copyrightAFP
image captionTribal fighters and government troops have been defending the Haditha dam and its surrounding area

Iraqi forces then launched a "wide attack" against militants to clear the areas surrounding the Haditha district, military spokesman Lt Gen Qassem Atta told the AFP news agency.

Troops and militia also retook Barwana, south of Haditha, from IS fighters, who abandoned their weapons and vehicles while retreating, AFP reported. However, the governor of Anbar, Ahmed al-Dulaimi, was wounded by an explosion shortly after Barwana was retaken.

Analysis: Jim Muir, BBC News, northern Iraq

The American air attacks, the first of their kind in Anbar province, signal that Washington has crossed a line that it itself drew.

It has long had a standing request from the outgoing Iraqi government to use its air power against IS in all areas. But until recently, it made it clear it would only do that once a new, inclusive government is formed in Baghdad, with full Sunni representation.

That hasn't yet happened, though intensive efforts are under way to produce a new cabinet soon - possibly on Monday.

Haditha dam is Iraq's second biggest hydroelectric facility and also provides millions with water.

IS fighters have targeted a number of Iraqi dams, capturing the facility at Falluja in April. In August they took the country's largest dam, at Mosul, but US air strikes helped force them out later that month.

On Monday morning, IS fighters attacked a riverside town north of Baghdad, killing at least 16 people and wounding 30 others.

Most of the casualties in Dhuluiya were caused by a suicide car bomber who reportedly targeted a meeting between security forces and members of Sunni al-Jabour tribe.

One security source told Reuters that gunboats were also used in the attack, which began before dawn and continued for two hours.

US President Barack Obama will on Wednesday reveal his strategy to combat IS, which has announced the creation of a "caliphate", or Islamic state, in the large swathes of Iraq and Syria under its control.

US media on Obama's "game plan"

Politico: The president's speech on [IS] will be a chance for him to clarify his plans for fighting the terrorist group after conflicting messages from the administration, including his "we don't have a strategy yet" comments late last month.

New York Times: The final, toughest and most politically controversial phase of the operation - destroying the terrorist army in its sanctuary inside Syria - might not be completed until the next administration. Indeed, some Pentagon planners envision a military campaign lasting at least 36 months.

Los Angeles Times: Congressional leaders have said they want Congress to be consulted, but they have not committed to a vote. And though some members of Congress have said they believe that they should go on record concerning military action, others are reluctant to do so with an election coming in less than two months.

Wall Street Journal: A chief element of President Barack Obama's plans to combat Islamic State militants is to line up a coalition of Arab nations to help. Arab officials, so far, have been lukewarm about the idea.

"What I want people to understand is that over the course of months, we are going to be able to not just blunt the momentum of [IS]," he told NBC TV on Sunday. "We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities; we're going to shrink the territory that they control; and, ultimately, we're going to defeat them."

But he stressed that there was "not going to be an announcement about US ground troops".

The secretary general of the Arab League meanwhile urged its members to confront Islamic State on all possible levels.

What was required from member states was a "clear and firm decision for a comprehensive confrontation" with "cancerous and terrorist" groups, Nabil al-Arabi told a meeting of foreign ministers in Cairo.

Related Topics

  • Iraq
  • Barack Obama