ISIS is using water as a weapon

Islamic State (IS) militants have closed some dam gates on the Euphrates River near Ramadi in western Iraq, reducing the vital flow of water to government-held areas while giving the militants greater freedom to attack government forces downstream.

The move on June 3 threatens the drinking water, irrigation water, and water-treatment plants for thousands of residents and troops in areas held by the Iraqi government.

And it also poses a threat to security forces fighting to recapture Ramadi.

If water levels drop significantly, said Anbar Province councilman Taha Abdul-Ghani, the insurgents could cross the Euphrates on foot and attack troops deployed along the river and stationed at nearby Habaniya military base.

The base has been used as a staging ground for Iraqi troops and allied Shi’ite militias in the fight to retake Ramadi.

It is not the first time the IS group has used water as a weapon. Earlier this year, it reduced the flow through a lock outside the town of Fallujah, also in Anbar Province, though it soon reopened the lock after criticism from residents.

ISIS trucks driving around Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: ISIS sources on the web)

ISIS trucks driving around Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: ISIS sources on the web)

Last summer, IS took control of the Mosul dam — the largest in Iraq — and threatened to flood Baghdad and other cities downstream. But Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by U.S. air strikes, later recaptured the facility.

Outside Ramadi, thousands of people in the government-held towns of Khalidiya and Habaniya are already suffering from shortages of drinking water because purification plants along the Euphrates have all but shut down due to low water levels caused by the summer heat.

The residents of the towns get only two hours a day of water through their pipes, Abdul-Ghani said.

“With the summer heat and lack of water, the lives of these people are in danger and some are thinking of leaving their homes,” he said.

Abu Ahmad, who owns a vegetable farm near Khalidiya, said he could lose all his crops because of lack of irrigation water. Now, the water is lower than the level of his water-pumping machines.

“I used to irrigate my crops every three days. If the situation continues like this, my vegetables will die,” said Abu Ahmad, using a nickname because of fears for his life.

The United Nations said on June 3 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,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general. “These kinds of reports are disturbing, to say the least.”

isis fighters tank

Photo Credit: Vice News/screenshot

The move is also worrying for an array of troops fighting IS.

The Euphrates has acted as a barrier between the militants, who control its northern bank, and pro-government forces who are trying to advance toward Ramadi on the other side.

A spokesman for the governor of Anbar Province said security forces would now have to redeploy along the river to prevent the insurgents from infiltrating.

“Previously they had to monitor only the bridges and certain areas, but now all of the river will be crossable,” Hikmat Suleiman said.

The government has found a temporary countermeasure. The partial closure of the Ramadi dam has forced more water into a tributary running south to Habbaniya lake, officials said.

Falih al-Issawi, a senior provincial security official, said the government had opened another dam to channel water from Habbaniya lake back into the Euphrates and prevent shortages in the southern provinces.

But he said this was only a temporary measure that would not be effective for more than three days.

“The government must act immediately otherwise dire consequences and an environmental catastrophe will be inevitable,” he said.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

Also from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

This article originally appeared at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Copyright 2015.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

TOP ARTICLES
These are the military traditions for deployed troops celebrating Thanksgiving

While you're deployed, weekends aren't really a thing — neither are most holidays. Thanksgiving, however, is a moment when the military slows down.

Forget multitasking, this Navy squadron has only one mission — rescue people

The Navy has an entire squadron for search and rescue, and it is the only squadron in the Navy that has an advance life-support helicopter platform.

How the Coast Guard intercepts half a million pounds of cocaine

For the last couple decades, the Coast Guard has pushed out further, taking more aggressive stabs at the flow of drugs that make their way into the U.S.

More remains of Special Forces soldier found in Niger

The Department of Defense announced that military investigators found additional remains that they have positively ID'd as Sgt. La David T. Johnson.

'Butcher of of Bosnia' sentenced to life in prison for genocide

"The Butcher of Bosnia" was handed a life sentence on November 22nd, 2017, for war crimes and the slaughter of 8,000 men and young children.

New engravings on the USMC War Memorial honor Iraq and Afghanistan Marines

On Nov. 22, the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial was updated to include Afghanistan and Iraq in the list of campaigns that runs along the memorial's base.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

As the Islamic State loses the in real life war they've waged against the world, they've moved their game online- waging war in the virtual world.

Everything you need to know about Zimbabwe's ousted dictator

The dictator of Zimbabwe announced his resignation on Nov. 21, 2017 after the county's army took of the capital and family, forcing the resignation.

Watch this Marine get pinned by his 3-year-old son

Watch this adorable little boy steal into the hearts of all the Marines and civilians present as he promotes his dad and pins on his promoted rank.

Watch a North Korean defector dodging bullets to cross the DMZ

A North Korean attempting to defect to the South, who was found to be full of parasites, was shot by his fellow soldiers. We Are the Mighty has the video.