Islamic State militants have closed gates of a dam on the Euphrates River in western Iraq, reducing the amount of water flowing to government-held areas in Iraq’s western Anbar province, an official said Thursday.
The militants have redirected the flow of water to their advantage on the battlefield around the city of Ramadi, which they captured last month. But the tactic also threatens southern provinces with drought and the water has been reduced to worrying levels, the officials said.
On Wednesday, the United Nations said it was looking into reports that the Islamic State group 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,” the spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Stephane Dujarric said. “These kinds of reports are disturbing, to say the least.”
Dujarric said the U.N. and humanitarian partners will try to “fill in the gaps” to meet water needs for the affected population.
The reduced flow through the insurgent-held dam on the Euphrates River threatens irrigation systems and water treatment plants in nearby areas controlled by troops and tribes opposed to the extremist group, provincial council member Taha Abdul-Ghani told The Associated Press.