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'Islamic State controls less than seven percent of Iraq'

IS still controls the large towns of Hawijah and Tal Afar [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 April, 2017

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The Islamic State group now controls less than seven percent of Iraq, down from the 40 percent it held nearly three years ago, military officials said.

The Islamic State group now controls less than seven percent of Iraq, down from the 40 percent it held nearly three years ago, a military spokesman said on Tuesday.

Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes and other support are now battling IS inside second city Mosul, after retaking much of the other territory the extremists had seized.

"Daesh controlled 40 percent of Iraqi land" in 2014, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool told reporters, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

"As of March 31, they only held 6.8 percent of Iraqi territory," said Rasool, the spokesman of the Joint Operations Command coordinating the anti-IS effort.

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

The most brutal organisation in modern self-proclaimed 'jihad' shocked the world when it took over Mosul in June 2014 and then swept across much of the country's Sunni Arab heartland.

Its reach in Iraq peaked in August, the same year a second offensive saw it take over areas of northern Iraq that were home to various minorities.

These areas had been under the control of forces from the country's autonomous Kurdish region's forces.

Iraqi forces with the backing of the US-led coalition - which has thousands of military personnel deployed in Iraq and carries out daily airstrikes - began a major offensive to retake Mosul in October 2016.

They retook control of the eastern side of the city, which is divided by the Tigris River, in January and have since mid-February been battling diehard militants holed up in their last west Mosul redoubts.

The full recapture of Mosul, the de facto capital of the "caliphate" that IS proclaimed nearly three years ago, would end the groups' dreams of a cross-border state.

IS still controls the large towns of Hawijah and Tal Afar, as well as remote areas along the border with Syria in western Iraq.

In Syria itself, it also holds the city of Raqqa and other areas.

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