(BAGHDAD, Iraq) -- United States warplanes continued to launch air strikes near the Mosul Dam Sunday in support of a Kurdish and Iraqi ground operation to retake Iraq's largest dam from the control of hundreds of ISIS fighters. The size of the Iraqi and Kurdish ground operation is unclear, but it would have to be sizable to counter the large number of ISIS fighters located at or near the dam.
As of early Monday, Kurdish fighters had taken back large sections of the dam as well as towns in the vicinity. Seizing back the dam has been a concern for Iraq and the U.S. because a breach could release a torrent of water that could flood Mosul and possibly reach as far downstream as Baghdad.
A mix of fighters, bombers and Predator drones conducted 14 airstrikes Sunday near the dam that targeted ISIS vehicles and positions. On Saturday, U.S. Central Command had launched nine airstrikes on the first day of the operation.
The combined 23 airstrikes over two days is almost equal to the same number of strikes conducted by U.S. military aircraft over the previous week. The significant ramp-up in airstrike operations reflects the scope of the effort to seize the dam from a significant force of ISIS fighters.
A U.S. official familiar with the operation said that there are a few hundred ISIS fighters at the dam.
The strikes "damaged or destroyed 10 ISIL [ISIS] armed vehicles, seven ISIL Humvees, two ISIL armored personnel carriers, and one ISIL checkpoint," according to a statement released by U.S. Central Command.
Centcom released two videos showing airstrikes conducted Saturday near the Mosul Dam. One video showed a strike against an ISIS armed truck, the second video showed a strike against a Humvee truck being used by ISIS fighters.
The armored vehicles being used by ISIS fighters indicates how well equipped the militants have become using American-made weapons and vehicles they seized from fleeing Iraqi security forces when they captured Mosul earlier this summer.
The release said all of the airstrikes have been conducted under authority granted by President Obama "to support humanitarian efforts in Iraq, as well as to protect critical infrastructure, U.S. personnel and facilities, and support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defense forces" who are working to defeat ISIS.
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