An Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighter stands guard, pictured in 2003. (dg/Ali Khaligh/UPI) | License Photo
BAGHDAD, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants claimed control of the Mosul Dam on Sunday, after a 24-hour battle with the Kurdish Peshmerga.
The dam is located on the Tigris River and provides electricity to the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
Dam employees were still inside the facility, noted Peshmerga Lt. Col. Herash.
Middle East Forum president Daniel Pipes explained the rationale behind the attack, telling CNN "If you control the Mosul Dam, you can threaten just about everybody."
With such control, ISIS would be able to orchestrate a massive flood that could have reverberations as far south as Baghdad, 280 miles away. "It's a horrendous prospect," Pipes observed.
On Sunday, the United Nations in Iraq confirmed ISIS had "seized control of nearly all of Sinjar and Tal Afar districts in Ninewa Province, including the oil field of Ain Zala and Batma, bordering the Kurdistan Region of Iraq."
Fighting has displaced up to 200,000 civilians from those areas. The U.N. Special Representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, called on the Kurdistan Regional Government to welcome the displaced into Kurdistan "in order to receive protection and humanitarian assistance."
The Kurdish Peshmerga forces have attempted to repel the ISIS lightning offensive against northern Iraqi towns and infrastructure, stepping in at times for the retreating Iraqi security forces.
In late July, KRG President Massoud Barzani visited Peshmerga fighters in Kirkuk, thanking them for their "tireless" work and observed that "The Peshmerga are ready to face death for a right cause."