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Pentagon Says IS Losing Ground In Iraq

The Pentagon says the Islamic State (IS) extremist group has lost control of up to 17,000 square kilometers in Iraq following months of air strikes by a U.S.-led coalition and an offensive by Iraqi forces.

Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Steve Warren said on April 13 that the front lines of the territory held by the IS militants had been pushed farther south and west in Iraq.

He said Iraqi security forces and coalition airpower had “unquestionably inflicted some damage” on IS militants and that the group was “now being slowly pushed back."

But the militants still control a wide swath of land stretching from west and south of the northern town of Sinjar down through Mosul and across Baiji, including the oil refinery there, which is still contested.

In Syria, Warren said IS fighters have maintained its influence on the ground, recently losing areas around the town of Kobani on the Turkish border, but gaining ground around the central city of Homs and the capital, Damascus.

Also on April 13, Iraqi security forces launched an operation aimed at liberating an area in the western province of Anbar from the IS group.

Ground forces, supported by air strikes, advanced deep into the Bu-Farraj area northeast of the provincial capital, Ramadi.

At least 13 militants were reported killed in the battle.

In southern Ramadi, fierce clashes took place in Hawz and nearby districts where security forces reportedly killed three IS fighters in an ambush.

Security forces also repelled an attack in western Ramadi, killing at least 11 militants.

The assault comes after Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced last week an operation to retake Anbar.

Most of the predominantly Sunni region is controlled by the IS group.

The offensive follows a victory in the city of Tikrit, about 140 kilometers north of Baghdad, which Iraqi forces retook from IS militants early this month.

With reporting by AP and AFP

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