The Islamic State (IS) group has lost most of the territories it held in Iraq after years of battles by Iraqi security forces to dislodge the extremist group from their strongholds in the country, an Iraqi military spokesman said on Tuesday.
ISIS once controlled around 40 per cent of Iraq, but that has now been whittled down to just 7 per cent, according to joint operations commander Brigadier General Yahya Rasool.
"As of March 31 (this year), they only held 6.8 per cent of Iraqi territory", he said.
Iraqi forces backed by US -led airstrikes have gradually pushed the militants out of a string of towns and cities over the past two years, and are now battling the extremists in Mosul, Iraq's second largest city.
"The high civilian toll suggests that coalition forces leading the offensive in Mosul have failed to take adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths, in flagrant violation of worldwide humanitarian law", the group's senior crisis response adviser Donatella Rovera said. Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January and launched the battle in the west in February.
The Mosul liberation operation began last October. "The biggest challenge they face is the civilians". Its fighters have pulled civilians into the conflict by placing snipers in residential areas, using civilians as human shields and executing those who try to escape, coalition spokesman Col. John Dorrian said at the news conference.
Victory against IS has come at a staggering cost, with some towns and neighborhoods reduced to rubble by airstrikes and shelling.
"Do not lose sight of the fact that even though the fighting is going to be very hard, this enemy is completely surrounded", he said.
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. "They aren't going anywhere".