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US Strikes Militants Near Key Mosul Dam in Iraq

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A flight deck crew member is seen giving an 'all clear' before a F/A-18C Hornet takes off from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf August 12, 2014.

A flight deck crew member is seen giving an 'all clear' before a F/A-18C Hornet takes off from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf August 12, 2014.

For the second straight day, U.S. military forces have carried out airstrikes to support Kurdish fighters as they try to wrest control of a strategic dam in northern Iraq from Islamic State militants.

The White House said on Sunday that President Barack Obama authorized U.S. air strikes in Iraq to help retake control of the Mosul Dam.

“The failure of the Mosul Dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, threaten U.S. personnel and facilities - including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad - and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace,” the White House said in a statement.

FILE - A general view of the dam in Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq.

FILE - A general view of the dam in Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq.


It added that the operations were being undertaken “in coordination with and at the request of the government of Iraq.”

U.S. defense officials said Sunday's 14 raids destroyed or damaged armed vehicles, armored personnel carriers and an Islamic State checkpoint. The U.S. said it used a mix of fighter jets, bombers and unmanned drones in conducting the latest attacks, on top of nine others it carried out the day before.

Kurdish fighters are reporting they have retaken the eastern half of territory near the Mosul dam on the Tigris River, which provides electricity and irrigation for much of the region. But the Kurds said their advance has been slowed by bombs planted by retreating jihadists, who had taken control of the dam earlier this month.

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect march in a rally at the Iraqi-Turkish border crossing in Zakho district of the Dohuk Governorate of the Iraqi Kurdistan province August 17, 2014.

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect march in a rally at the Iraqi-Turkish border crossing in Zakho district of the Dohuk Governorate of the Iraqi Kurdistan province August 17, 2014.


On Saturday, witnesses said the Islamic State militants massacred 80 people, most of them members of the Yazidi religious minority, during a raid on the northern Iraqi village of Kocho.

The United States first launched airstrikes earlier this month against the insurgents, in part to prevent the killing of thousands of Yazidis stranded on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met in Irbil Saturday with the president of Iraq's Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani. Steinmeier said Germany has made extra humanitarian aid money available for people fleeing the Islamists.

Barzani described what is happening in the region as a "tragic situation."

Aid agencies are increasing humanitarian operations in Iraq, in response to the recent U.N. declaration that the displacement crisis in the country has reached its highest level of emergency. About 1.2 million people have fled their homes this year to escape attacks by the militants.

Some people fleeing the violence say they are in dire need of humanitarian aid.

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