On Wednesday, Islamist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) made a push towards the Haditha Dam, the second-largest dam in Iraq.
Iraqi officials worried that if ISIS successfully overtook the dam, major geopolitical repercussions would ensue, such as irreparable damage and uncontrollable flooding.
The Haditha Dam, which sits on the Euphrates River, is located about 120 miles northwest of Baghdad. The ISIS jihadis coordinated an attack from three flanks: the north, northeast, and northwest areas of the dam. According to Iraqi government officials, ISIS had reached Burwana, which sits in the eastern region of where the Haditha Dam is located.
One employee told The New York Times that army officers directed them to stay inside and be on alert to open the floodgates if security ordered them to do so. “This will lead to the flooding of the town and villages and will harm you also,” said the employee.
ISIS has a history of using dams to destroy property. In April, ISIS seized the Fallujah Dam and opened it to flood and destroy agricultural sites all the way south into the city of Najaf.
Separately, ISIS militants attacked and took control of several Iraqi oil fields Wednesday. The jihadi fighters also sought to overtake one of Iraq’s biggest air bases.
The ISIS fighters overran Iraq’s Ajeel oil site, located 20 miles east of Tikrit. The site, which contains at least three oilfields, produces an estimated 28,000 barrels per day, according to an engineer who was posted at the field. The engineer said that after police and military forces fled the area, only tribal groups were left to protect the strategically rich site.
The battle for Iraq’s primary oil refinery in Baiji is ongoing. Iraqi television reported that military forces had flown into the area to try to stave off ISIS insurgents’ advances. The Baiji refinery has seen intense battles for the plant since last Wednesday.