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BAGHDAD — Islamic State fighters seized control of Iraq's biggest dam, an oilfield and three more towns on Sunday after inflicting their first major defeat on Kurdish forces since sweeping through the region in June. Capture of the Mosul Dam after an offensive of barely 24 hours could give the Sunni militants the ability to flood major Iraqi cities or withhold water from farms, sharply raising the stakes in their bid to topple Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-led government.
The Islamic State, which sees Iraq's majority Shiites as apostates who deserve to be killed, also seized the Ain Zalah oil field — adding to four others already under its control which provide funding for operations — and three towns. The group, which has declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria to rule over all Muslims, poses the biggest challenge to the stability of OPEC member Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. But the towns lost on Sunday were in territory the Kurds had held for many years, undermining any suggestion that the Islamic State's advance has helped the Kurdish cause.
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