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Syria dam not damaged: SDF Raqqa campaign spokeswoman

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Tabqa Euphrates dam is not damaged or malfunctioning and engineers inspect its operations fully, a Syrian rebel spokeswoman said on Monday after Islamic State (IS) militants said it was at risk of collapse.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are fighting to repel Islamic State from the dam, 40 km (26 miles) upstream of the IS bastion city of Raqqa, but paused on Sunday to give engineers access after IS warned the dam could crumple.

“We permitted a team of engineers to enter the dam to verify the process of its operations. They checked it fully. And there is no malfunction or damage to the dam or its operations as was rumored,” Jihan Sheikh Ahmed, the SPF’s spokeswoman, said in a statement on its Raqqa campaign social media feed.

She accused Islamic State, which continues to hold parts of the dam, of spreading rumors aimed at causing panic among civilians.

Colonel Joseph Scrocca, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, which is supporting the SDF operations, said it was taking every precaution to ensure the dam’s integrity.

“We do not assess the dam to be in imminent danger unless ISIS plans to destroy it,” he said, using a common acronym for Islamic State.

“The SDF are in control of a spillway north of the dam that provides water to an irrigation reclamation canal which can be used to alleviate pressure on the dam if need be.”

Reporting by Angus McDowall; editing by Mark Heinrich