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Iraq awards contract for repairing major dam

February 2, 2016

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq on Tuesday awarded an Italian company a contract to overhaul and maintain the Mosul dam in the country’s north, days after a U.S. general warned of its possible collapse.

Government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi told The Associated Press the Cabinet awarded the contract to Italy’s Trevi group Tuesday. He had no precise figure for the contract’s value. However, a Cabinet official told AP it was worth $230 million and that work on the dam would begin later this month.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

News of the contract came just days after Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the top U.S. general in Iraq, warned of dam’s potential collapse, which could cause mass flooding. Built in the early 1980s, the dam is made largely of earth and situated on soft mineral foundations, which are easily dissolved by water.

A report in 2006 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers called it “the most dangerous dam in the world” because of its propensity to erode.

Since the extremist Islamic State group blitzed across much of northern and western Iraq in the summer of 2014, Iraqi maintenance teams have at times struggled to gain access to the dam, which is north of Mosul. IS seized the dam in July of that year, but Iraqi forces and Kurdish fighters, with coalition air support, took it back within weeks.

The Cabinet official said the Italian company has given Iraq the choice of accepting a military protection force of 450 soldiers to protect the dam while work is underway or spending $20 million for a private security team. Iraq, he said, prefers the deployment of the Italian troops, on condition they operate under Iraqi government guidelines. He did not elaborate.

He said U.S. engineers will be in charge of inspecting the work of the Italian company.

Separately, Iraqi police and hospital officials said three blasts in different parts of Baghdad killed seven people and wounded 23 on Tuesday.

They said a roadside bomb ripped through a commercial street in western Baghdad, killing four and wounding eight. In eastern Baghdad, another roadside bomb killed two people and wounded nine, and a “sticky” bomb killed one and wounded six.

Baghdad has been gripped by violence for more than a decade. Most of the violence is blamed on Sunni militants opposed to the Shiite-led government and the domination of the Shiite majority.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Update hourly