US-backed fighters to pause military action near Syria dam

2017-03-27 18:32
The Tabqa Dam. (Operation Inherent Resolve, via AP)

The Tabqa Dam. (Operation Inherent Resolve, via AP)

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Beirut - US-backed forces in northern Syria said Monday they will pause military operations near a major dam held by the Islamic State group in order to allow engineers to fix any problems after conflicting reports about its stability.

The decision by the Syrian Democratic Forces came a day after conflicting reports over whether civilians had begun evacuating the nearby city of Raqqa - the extremists' de facto capital - due to concerns about the Tabqa dam on the Euphrates River.

Some activist groups opposed to ISIS have said residents are seeking higher ground, fearing that the collapse of the dam could cause severe flooding, while others said people were remaining in place. Conflicting reports are common in areas controlled by ISIS, which bans independent media.

The SDF, a US-backed and Kurdish-led force, has been fighting ISIS in the area since Friday in an attempt to capture the dam, one of the main sources of electricity in northern Syria.

The SDF said in a terse statement that the four-hour cease-fire will begin at 13:00 (11:00 GMT) on Monday. It said the request for a cease-fire was made by the dam's administrators, without specifying whether they were part of the Syrian government or ISIS, which operates a quasi-state in the areas under its control.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 200 technicians are in Tabqa waiting for the fighting to stop so they can enter the facility and activate a main engine.

The SDF said in a statement issued two hours after the pause of fighting went into effect, that the experts visited the dam and did not find any technical problem.

The engineer Haytham Bakour, who used to work at the dam and now lives in southern Turkey, said that four hours is not enough time for engineers to inspect the dam.

Another engineer, Ahmad Farhat, who headed of the Mechanical Administration of the dam, said that it is "equipped with the necessary precautions for its own protection," but there needs to be technical personnel on site to engage them. He spoke with The Associated Press from the rebel-held northwestern Syrian province of Idlib.


Read more on:    isis  |  us  |  syria

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