BAGHDAD — Iraq's government claimed Monday to have recaptured the Mosul dam from Islamic militants following two days of U.S. airstrikes that targeted militants in the area and supported the ground attack.
The claim, which could not be independently verified, would amount to a significant victory for Iraq's government, which has struggled to blunt the momentum of the militants.
The U.S. military had launched more than 20 air strikes around the area over the last several days.
Militants seeded the area around the dam with roadside bombs and booby traps, making progress slow. About 150 improvised explosives were found by ground forces, according to Iraq's military.
The new American strikes suggest an incremental expansion of the U.S. mission, which began more than a week ago to prevent militants from overrunning Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish region, and to save Yaziri refugees trapped on a mountain to escape the Islamic State militants.
The air campaign around the dam has allowed Kurdish forces to begin retaking territory seized by the militants, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The group shortened its name to the Islamic State.
President Obama sent a letter to Congress on Sunday explaining his authorization of the strikes.
"The failure of the Mosul dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, endanger U.S. personnel and facilities, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace," Obama said in the letter.
Obama emphasized that the mission is limited in "scope and duration."
Militants seized the dam this month, gaining control over electricity distributed to much of northern Iraq and the capability to flood communities downriver.
The U.S. military used a mix of aircraft and drones in Sunday's strikes, destroying or damaging seven Humvees, two armored personnel carriers and a militant checkpoint.
The militants captured an array of U.S. military equipment from Iraqi forces in June when four divisions collapsed in Mosul after the radical forces attacked the city. The equipment gave Islamic State fighters an advantage in firepower, but they're vulnerable to attack from the air.