Daesh in control of less than 7% of Iraq

An Iraqi Christian resident of Qaraqosh attends Palm Sunday service at the heavily damaged Church of the Immaculate Conception

Yahya Rasool, Iraqi army spokesperson, told a news conference that ISIS now controls only 6.8 per cent of Iraq's territory from the 40 per cent it controlled as at June 10, 2014.

Mosul, now the last Iraqi city in which ISIL still holds significant territory, is split by the Tigris River, with the east side referred to as the left bank and the west as the right.

In mid-February, Iraqi forces - backed by USA -led air power - began a fresh push to recapture western Mosul, the terrorist group's last stronghold in northern Iraq.

The federal police said in a statement on Tuesday they have been reinforcing their positions in Western Mosul in preparation for a push on the al-Nuri Mosque where Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the "Caliphate" in 2014.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.

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

The extremist group is still fighting desperately to keep its last major stronghold in the western side of Mosul, as well as smaller areas in Tal Afar, Hawija in northern Iraq, Qaim and Aana near the border with Syria in the western province of Anbar.

Speaking at the same press conference in Baghdad on Tuesday, the spokesman for the US-led coalition vowed that Iraq would not be abandoned after the recapture of Mosul.

Iraqi artillery units and coalition airstrikes seeking out ISIL militants have been targeting the area. "They aren't going anywhere - they will be defeated and the people of Mosul will be free", he said.

"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.

In this context the Iraqi general said that the Iraqi forces are relying on infantry forces, in order to avoid civilian casualties.

The operation began in October 2016 and led to the liberation of Mosul's eastern part this January. "We are very careful". "The biggest challenge they face is the civilians".

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