On Sunday the Islamic State, formerly ISIS, took control of the Mosul Dam during a battle with Kurdish forces.
The Mosul Dam is situated on the Tigris River in the western governorate of Ninawa, upstream of the city of Mosul. It is the largest dam in the country and the fourth largest in the Middle East holding at full capacity 2.7 cubic miles of water. It provides electricity for nearly 2 million people in Mosul.
The dam is considered the most dangerous in the world. It is estimated that a sudden collapse would submerge Mosul under 65 feet of water and Baghdad under 15 feet. Baghdad has a population of over 7 million. It is estimated 500,000 would perish if the dam failed.
Earlier this year ISIS took control of the Fallujah Barrage, a small dam on the Euphrates near Fallujah in Al Anbar Governorate.
According to the leader of the Sons of Iraq Council, Mohammad Al-Hayis, ISIS had planned to use the dam as a weapon.
“ISIS has two objectives: on the one hand, they want to drown the areas surrounding Fallujah, but the sudden attack by the army foiled that plan; on the other hand, they want to cut off water supply to the central and southern governorates in order to give their war a sectarian dimension,” Al-Hayis told Asharq Al-Awsat in April.
Between January and April ISIS opened and closed the gates of the Fallujah Barrage ten times, causing extensive flooding in Anbar province. The flooding resulted in the displacement of 715 families from Abu Ghraib, according to Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and Displacements.
In June, as ISIS moved in on the Haditha Dam on the Euphrates, the Iraqi army announced it would open the floodgates of the dam to prevent ISIS from using it as a weapon.
“Alarmed army officers told employees to stay inside and to be prepared to open the dam’s floodgates if ordered to do so, one employee said,” The New York Times reported on June 25, 2014.
The Haditha Dam is the second largest in the country.