Islamic State group uses Iraq dam to reduce water supplied to government-held areas

Islamic State militants have reduced the amount of water flowing to government-held areas in Iraq’s western Anbar province, an official said Thursday, the latest in the vicious war as Iraqi forces struggle to claw back ground held by the extremists in the Sunni heartland.

BAGHDAD — Islamic State militants have reduced the amount of water flowing to government-held areas in Iraq’s western Anbar province, an official said Thursday, the latest in the vicious war as Iraqi forces struggle to claw back ground held by the extremists in the Sunni heartland.

It’s not the first time that water has been used as a weapon of war in Mideast conflicts and in Iraq in particular. Earlier this year, the Islamic State group reduced the flow through another lock outside the militant-held town of Fallujah, also in Anbar province. But the extremists soon reopened it after criticism from residents.

The IS captured Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, last month, marking its most significant victory since a U.S.-led coalition began an air campaign against the extremists last August. Earlier last year, the Islamic State had blitzed across much of western and northern Iraq, capturing key Anbar cities and also Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city that lies to the north of Baghdad.

Also Thursday, U.N. officials urgently called for almost $498 million in donations to provide shelter, food, water and other life-saving services for the next six months to Iraqis displaced or affected by the fighting between government forces and the Islamic State group.

The reduced flow of water through the militant-held dam on the Euphrates River will threaten irrigation systems and water treatment plants in nearby areas controlled by troops and tribes opposed to the extremist group, provincial council member Taha Abdul-Ghani told The Associated Press.

Abdul-Ghani said there would be no immediate effect on Shiite areas in central and southern Iraq, saying water is being diverted to those areas from the Tigris River.

The United Nations had said on Wednesday that it was looking into reports that IS had reduced the flow of water through the al-Warar dam.

“The use of water as a tool of war is to be condemned in no uncertain terms,” the spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters. “These kinds of reports are disturbing, to say the least.”

He said the U.N. and humanitarian partners will try to “fill in the gaps” to meet water needs for the affected population.

In Brussels, U.N. officials said Thursday that the needs of Iraqis affected by the fighting are huge and growing, with more than 8 million people requiring immediate support, and potentially 10 million by the end of 2015.

Lise Grande, the U.N.’s humanitarian co-ordinator for Iraq, said the aid operation, which she called one of the most complex and volatile in the world, was hanging by a thread.

“Humanitarian partners have been doing everything they can to help. But more than 50 per cent of the operation will be shut down or cut back if money is not received immediately,” Grande told members of the European Parliament, according to a U.N. news release.

The consequences of such a reduction in aid, Grande said, would be “catastrophic.”

“While we search for solutions to end the violence, we must do everything in our power to help,” said U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Kyung-Wha Kang, also in Brussels. “The people of Iraq need our help, now.”

At a one-day conference in Paris this week, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had pressed his case for more support from the 25 countries in the U.S.-led coalition fighting the militant group, asking for more armament and ammunition.

“We’re relying on ourselves, but fighting is very hard this way,” al-Abadi said before the conference Tuesday.

The coalition has mustered a mix of airstrikes, intelligence sharing and assistance for Iraqi ground operations against the extremists. Al-Abadi said more was needed, with Iraq reeling after troops pulled out of Ramadi without a fight and abandoned U.S.-supplied tanks and weapons.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta is on pace to administer more than 300,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses per week, according to the provincial government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
One million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in Alberta

Alberta hit a milestone in the fight against COVID-19 this week. As… Continue reading

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Interior work will start this year on Red Deer hospital project, says infrastructure minister

‘We are committed. This is a top priority,’ says Presad Panda

Even with recent restrictions due to rising COVID-19 variant case levels, about 95 per cent of businesses are open in Alberta, said Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Consistent pandemic policy has helped Alberta, premier says

Alberta fatality rate lower than Canadian average

Richie Laryea of Toronto FC, left, and Jean Meneses of Mexico's Leon battle for the ball during a CONCACAF Champions League soccer match in Leon, Mexico, in Leon, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Toronto FC hosts Club Leon in the second leg of their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League round-of-16 tie holding a valuable away goal after a 1-1 draw last week in Mexico. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mario Armas
Injury-riddled Toronto FC dispatches Club Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play

Injury-riddled Toronto FC dispatches Club Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play

Winnipeg Jets' Dylan DeMelo (2) skates the puck around Ottawa Senators' Thomas Chabot (72) as he holds off Winnipeg Jets' Mason Appleton (22) during first-period NHL action in Ottawa on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Winnipeg Jets score two third-period goals to secure 3-2 victory over Ottawa Senators

Winnipeg Jets score two third-period goals to secure 3-2 victory over Ottawa Senators

Toronto Raptors forward Chris Boucher (25) shoots over San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Anunoby, Siakam rally Raptors past Spurs 117-112

Anunoby, Siakam rally Raptors past Spurs 117-112

John Furlong pitches a broader B.C. bid for 2030 Winter Games

John Furlong pitches a broader B.C. bid for 2030 Winter Games

New York Yankees starting pitcher Corey Kluber throws against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Bichette hits 2nd homer in 9th, Blue Jays beat Yankees 5-4

Bichette hits 2nd homer in 9th, Blue Jays beat Yankees 5-4

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Luguentz Dort (5) goes to the basket as Utah Jazz forward Jarrell Brantley (5) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Salt Lake City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Rick Bowmer
Undrafted Montreal native Dort continues to smash “glass ceilings” in NBA

Undrafted Montreal native Dort continues to smash “glass ceilings” in NBA

A man wearing a protective mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks past banners for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, to mark 100 days before the start of the Summer Games. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Eugene Hoshiko
Rings on the Horizon: Tokyo Summer Olympics hit 100 days out marker

Rings on the Horizon: Tokyo Summer Olympics hit 100 days out marker

Lethbridge Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh speaks during a news conference in Lethbridge, Alta., on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Rossiter
‘Right path:’ Lethbridge police release improvement plan in wake of controversies

‘Right path:’ Lethbridge police release improvement plan in wake of controversies

Most Read