Various news sources report that Islamic State has occupied Tabqa Dam and is using it to shelter high-value prisoners and senior officials.
Supposedly Tabqa Dam presents a strategic advantage in that U.S. and UK troops will not target it for bombing because of the potential to kill people downstream and cause significant environmental damage, not to mention disruption of electrical service, if it is breached.
This earthfill dam, on the Euphrates River in Syria, is 200 feet tall and 2.8 miles long and impounds water for Lake Assad, the largest reservoir in the country. It is the largest dam in Syria and is located about 25 miles upstream from the city of Ar-Raqqah, which one news source called “Islamic State’s de facto capital headquarters.”
The associated powerhouse has a capacity of 824 MW, which is the largest hydropower plant in Syria.
Tabqa Dam has been a focal point for civil unrest in the past. In February 2013, it was captured by the Syrian opposition, and at that time news sources reported it was the third hydropower project to fall under rebel control
It is located upstream from the 630-MW Tishrin project, which was taken over by the Free Syrian Army in November 2012. In September 2014, HydroWorld.com reported that the U.S. launched air strikes to help Iraqi and Sunni forces protect Haditha Dam and its 660-MW hydro project from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. And in December 2015 we reported that a U.S.-backed alliance of Syrian Kurds and Arab rebel groups had captured Tishrin Dam from IS.