Italy sending 450 troops to protect engineers, unstable Mosul Dam from ISIL

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Italy is deploying 450 soldiers to protect Iraq’s vital Mosul Dam from Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).

The dam is 30 miles from the city of Mosul, which ISIL controls. Officials fear a catastrophe for local populations and farmland should the dam fall into disrepair or be sabotaged by the terrorist organization.

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters guard Mosul Dam in August 2014. /Reuters
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters guard Mosul Dam in August 2014. /Reuters

“The call [to protect the dam] was made by an Italian company … and we will send 450 of our men there to help protect it alongside the Americans,” Prime Minister Matteo Renzi told a national television audience on Dec. 15.

The Kurdish Peshmerga currently control the dam. It was briefly held by ISIL in the summer of 2014.

The Italian construction and energy company Trevi recently secured a contract worth $1.97 billion to provide maintenance to the dam. The Italian troops will enable Trevi to begin badly needed construction work at the dam site.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found in 2007 that the Mosul Dam was unstable and had an “exceptionally high” probability of failure.

The Army said the dam’s collapse could kill up to 500,000 people and destroy 250 square kilometers of farmland.

“If the dam fails, scientists say Mosul could be completely flooded within hours and a 15-foot wall of water could crash into Baghdad,” said Keith Johnson of Foreign Policy.

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