Published: Thu, April 13, 2017
World Media | By Joan Schultz

Iraq says Islamic State has lost most of the land it seized

Iraq says Islamic State has lost most of the land it seized

At the height of its power, the group controlled about 40 percent of Iraq, joint operations command spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool told a news conference.

Rasool said, "As of March 31, they only held 6.8 percent of Iraqi territory".

"This fighting in the western side of Mosul has been hard because of the enemy's tactics, of not only hiding amongst the civilian population but also actively pulling civilians into harm's way, surrounding their snipers with civilians, loading buildings that they are firing from with civilians and publicly executing civilians who are trying to escape the danger", said Colonel John L Dorrian, spokesman for the US-led International Coalitions.

The battle for Mosul, one of Iraq's largest cities, began last October and the outcome will likely determine whether Iraq's various sects can work together to keep the country from fracturing.

Islamic State militants still control the towns of Qaim, Tal Afar and Hawija in Iraq, as well as Raqqa, their de-facto capital in Syria.

Various members of the forces, Iraqi and foreign, battling ISIL have disagreed in the past on figures about control of territory, but ISIL has been losing ground steadily for close to two years.

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An Iraqi special forces soldier moves through a hole in a wall during heavy fighting in the Yarmouk district of western Mosul, Iraq, Tuesday, April 11, 2017.

After months of fighting for Iraq's second largest city, government forces liberated eastern Mosul on January 24, including key landmarks such as Mosul University. "The biggest challenge they face is the civilians".

"Their ability and capability became stronger and more developed" since the jihadists shocked Iraqi security and intelligence forces with their lightning offensive in June 2104, says Mr. Hashimi.

As a result they are prepared to fight to the last man, using suicide bombers, vehicles packed with explosives, and even human shields to stall the Iraqi advance.

Victory against Isis has come at a staggering cost, with some towns and neighbourhoods reduced to rubble by air strikes and shelling.

"Once that task is accomplished, the coalition will be here to support our Iraqi partners as they eliminate Daesh from every corner of Iraq", Col. John Dorrian said.

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