Kurdish security forces take part in an intensive security
deployment after clashes with militants of the Islamic
State in Jalawla, Diyala province last week.
Kurdish fighters are pushing to retake Iraq's largest dam
in an attempt to reverse gains by Islamic State insurgents who
have overrun much of the country's north, officials said.
Islamic State militants have seized several towns and
oilfields as well as Mosul Dam in recent weeks, possibly
giving them the ability to flood cities or cut off water and
Asked about a Kurdish push to dislodge the militants on
Sunday, a Kurdish official said they had not retaken the dam
itself but had seized "most of the surrounding area".
Islamic State militants have told residents in the area to
leave, according to an engineer who works at the site.
The engineer said the militants told him they were planting
roadside bombs along roads leading in and out of the
facility, possibly in fear of an attack by Kurdish fighters
who have been bolstered by U.S. airstrikes.
U.S. planes - deployed over Iraq because of the Islamic
State's advances for the first time since the U.S. troop
withdrawal in 2011 - had been striking targets near Mosul Dam
over the last 24 hours, peshmerga spokesman Halgurd Hikmat
"God willing we will regain control of the dam today," he
U.S. officials said last week the U.S. government was
directly supplying weapons to Kurdish peshmerga fighters.
Witnesses said Kurdish forces have recaptured the mainly
Christian towns of Batmaiya and Telasqaf, 30 km (18 miles)
from Mosul, the closest they have come to the city since
Islamic State insurgents drove government forces out in June.
The insurgents have also tightened their security checkpoints
in Mosul, conducting more intensive inspections of vehicles
and identification cards, witnesses said.
The Kurds, who live in a semi-autonomous region in the north
of Iraq, have long dreamed of independence from central
governments in Baghdad which oppressed the non-Arab ethnic
group for decades under former dictator Saddam Hussein.
Tensions were also high under outgoing Prime Minister Nuri
al-Maliki who clashed with them over budgets and oil.
The Kurds since June have capitalised on the chaos in
northern Iraq, taking over oilfields in the disputed city of
Iraq's new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, faces the task of
reducing Sunni-Shi'ite tensions that have revived a sectarian
civil war and addressing those Kurdish independence
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has warned
against the formation of an independent Kurdish state, saying
this would risk further destabilising the region.
"An independent Kurdish state would ...create new tensions,
possibly also with the states neighbouring Iraq," Steinmeier
said in an interview with Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper
published on Sunday.
Proclaiming a caliphate straddling parts of Iraq and Syria,
Islamic State militants have swept across northern Iraq,
pushing back Kurdish regional forces and driving tens of
thousands of Christians and members of the Yazidi religious
minority from their homes.
Steinmeier, who met Iraq's new Shi'ite prime minister in
Baghdad on Saturday, said the formation of a new government
that all regions and religions could identify with "is
perhaps the last chance for cohesion in Iraq".
The European Union has allowed individual EU governments to
supply arms and ammunition to Iraqi Kurds, provided they have
the consent of authorities in Baghdad. Washington is already
In a televised statement apparently referring at that action,
the office of the Iraqi army command on Sunday evening said:
"We warn all parties not to exploit the current security
situation in the north of Iraq and violate sovereign airspace
to ship arms to local parties without approval of the central
Asked about possible German deliveries, Steinmeier said:
"We're not ruling anything out. We're looking at what's
possible and doing what is necessary as quickly as possible."
Masoud Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan, reiterated his
call for weapons from Germany and other Western countries in
an interview with Bild am Sonntag.
Fears of Islamic State militants - who Iraqi officials say
have massacred hundreds of Yazidis - have driven thousands of
people to the Kurdish region.
In the town of Dohuk, about 100 Yazidis held demonstrations
on Sunday, complaining that they had given up on Iraq and
wanted to travel to Turkey but were prevented from doing so
by Kurdish security forces.
"They can't protect us. The Islamic State came to our
villages and killed hundreds. We don't want to stay in Iraq,
they will kill us sooner or later," said Nadia, 20.
"I want America to help me. The peshmerga are not letting us
Kurdish militants have also trained hundreds of Yazidi
volunteers at several camps inside Syria to fight Islamic
State forces in Iraq, a member of the armed Kurdish YPG and a
Reuters photographer who visited a training camp said on
The photographer spend Saturday at one training camp in
northeastern Syria where he saw 55 Yazidis being trained to
"The Yazidi civilians want to stay in Syria because it is
safer, but the volunteers really want to go back to Iraq to
fight," he said by phone.