Al-Qosh, Iraq: Iraqi Kurds backed by US warplanes have retaken the country's largest dam from jihadists, as Sunni tribesmen and security forces continue to fight the militants west of Baghdad.
The recapture of Mosul dam marks the biggest prize clawed back from Islamic State (or IS, also known as ISIL) jihadists since they launched a northern offensive in early June when they swept Iraqi security forces aside.
IS militants, who have declared a "caliphate" straddling vast areas of Iraq and Syria, also came under air attack in their Syrian stronghold of Raqa on Sunday, a monitoring group said.
Syria's air force carried out 16 raids on the city of Raqqa and several more on the town of Tabqa in Raqqa province, killing at least 31 jihadists and eight civilians, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Two months of violence have brought Iraq to the brink of breakup, and world powers relieved by the exit of divisive premier Nouri al-Maliki are sending aid to the hundreds of thousands who have fled their homes as well as arms to the Kurdish peshmerga forces.
Buoyed by air strikes US President Barack Obama ordered last week, Kurdish forces are fighting to win back ground they had lost since early August, when the jihadists went back on the offensive north, east and west of the city of Mosul, capturing the dam on August 7.
Earlier on Sunday, US warplanes and drones pummelled the militants fighting against the Kurdish advance.
The US Central Command reported that the military had carried out 14 air strikes during the day near the dam, which, located on the Tigris river, provides electricity and irrigation water for farming to much of the region.
CENTCOM said the strikes destroyed 10 IS armed vehicles, seven IS Humvees, two armoured personnel carriers and one IS checkpoint.
In Syria's Raqqa, the air strikes were the "most intensive" against the IS since the jihadists joined the anti-regime revolt in that country in spring 2013, the Observatory said.
"The regime wants to show the Americans that it is also capable of striking the IS," said the Britain-based Observatory's director, Rami Abdel Rahman.
In western Iraq's Anbar province, security forces backed by Sunni Arab tribal militia, who announced a new effort against the jihadists on Friday, made gains west of the provincial capital Ramadi, police said.
Fighting was also taking place near the strategic Euphrates Valley town of Haditha, located near another important dam, police Major-General Ahmed Sadag said.
The rallying of more than two dozen Sunni tribes to the government side marked a potential turning point in the fightback against the jihadists and their allies.
The militants were able to sweep through the Sunni Arab heartland north and west of Baghdad in June, encountering little effective resistance, and Iraqi security forces have yet to make significant headway in regaining ground.