Iraq jihadist group ISIS diverting river to forestall Iraqi army attack on Falluja

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By Nidhal al-Laithi

Azzaman, April 8, 2014

Jihadists from the Islamic State for Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) are filling in the Euphrates River with gravel and mud to divert its course, sources from inside Falluja said.

The sources, refusing to be named, said ISIS was fearing an imminent attack by Iraq troops on the city, which they have encircled for nearly three months but stopped short of entering it.

The river diversion, if successful, will inundate positions currently held by Iraqi troops surrounding Falluja and force them to retreat to higher ground or far away from the town.

The sources said the flooding of areas in the outskirts of Falluja would cut off supply routes to Iraqi troops unless they shifted the positions they had dug around the city.

The diversion will have far reaching consequences on downstream towns and cities as millions of people in southern Iraq rely on the Euphrates for drinking water and irrigation

Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki’s office has already issued a statement warning that ISIS was diverting the river to deny central and southern Iraq access to its waters.

“ISIS gangs … in Falluja have started cutting off waters from areas in central and southern Iraq, putting the lives of Iraqis in danger,” said a statement issued by Maliki’s office.

ISIS jihadists occupied Falluja more than two months ago in their latest bid to wrest control of areas west of Baghdad from government control.

The group has since widened range of its attacks and bombings to include Baghdad and the provinces of Baaquba, Salahudeen and Nineveh. ISIS says it has the upper hand in the strategic Province of Anbar of which the city of Ramadi is the capital.

“We will use utmost force to save the lives of people and agricultural land,” warned the statement by Maliki’s office. “We shall not let these killers (ISIS) use the city of Falluja as a stronghold for their crimes and games to play with the life of people and their property.”