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EXCLUSIVE Coalition says engineers checked Syria’s Tabqa dam for IS booby traps

A spokesperson for the US-led coalition told Grasswire on March 31 that engineers have checked the Tabqa dam, near Raqqa, for Islamic State booby traps.

The spokesperson said that during the SDF’s four-hour halt in operations on March 27, engineers familiar with the Tabqa dam visited the structure to “assess the dam, ensure it was operating properly, and determine if any ISIS booby traps were putting dam at risk.”

“The engineers were sponsored by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent society and they reached the dam,” the spokesperson said, but it remains unclear if the engineers assessed the entire 4.5km structure.

Images have been published of March 28 and 29 visits by SARC personnel and engineers to the northern end of the dam controlled by the SDF, but Grasswire has not seen any imagery showing the March 27 visit.

SARC reported on March 30 that volunteer Firas Al-Hussein was killed on March 27 while on duty in the Tabqa area. It is unclear if Hussein was at or near the dam. Grasswire has contacted SARC for more information but we have not yet received a response.

Damage to the dam

Asked to clarify the SDF’s March 27 statement which said engineers “confirmed that the dam has not been damaged,” the coalition spokesperson told Grasswire: “The engineers determined that the dam was not in imminent danger.”

On March 26, Islamic State claimed via its Amaq agency that coalition airstrikes had hit the dam. The coalition spokesperson reiterated an earlier statement that it “does not target the dam with strikes, and when we strike legitimate military targets on or near the dam, we use non-cratering munitions so as not to cause unnecessary damage to the dam.”

When asked about specific bomb types that may have been used, the spokesperson said: “The Coalition does not use large bombs on or near the dam,” adding that they had updated earlier language to be more precise.

Grasswire asked if the hydroelectric turbine area of the dam had been hit by an airstrike between March 24 and 26. The spokesperson did not answer.

We’ve followed the Tabqa dam story in great detail since it broke: Everything we know about the Tabqa dam

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