Islamic State's (Isis) territory shrank by 40% from its maximum expansion in Iraq, and by 20% percent in Syria in 2015, as international forces pushed it out of several cities, the US-led coalition fighting it said on 5 January. "We believe in Iraq it's about 40%, in Syria, harder to get a good number, we think it's kinda under 20, and altogether around 30%, we believe, taking together Iraq and Syria," coalition spokesman US Army Colonel Steve Warren told a news briefing in Baghdad. "All in all, they lost 30% of the territory they once held," he said.
IS (Daesh) swept through a third of Iraq in 2014, seizing Mosul, the largest city in the north, and reaching the vicinity of Baghdad. Counter-offensives by Iraqi and Kurdish armed forces, supported by the US-led coalition and by Iran-backed Shi'ite militias, have forced them out of several cities since, including Tikrit, north of Baghdad, and Ramadi, to the west last month.
In Syria, IS is fighting the army of President Bashar al-Assad and other rebel groups opposed to his rule. It is facing air strikes by the US-led coalition and by Russia, which has sent warplanes to support its ally, the Syrian government. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi last month said 2016 will be the year of "final victory" over the hardline group.
Warren also said IS had launched several offensives near the city of Haditha in northwest Iraq in the past 48 hours. Coalition air strikes helped the Iraqi army repel a first onslaught towards Haditha on 4 January by about 200 militants, Warren said. He said more than 100 IS fighters were killed, without giving a figure for casualties on the Iraqi government side.
"There have been several Daesh attacks north of Ramadi, recently, around close to Hit, outside of Haditha; none of these attacks have been successful, that is the most important. Every one of these Daesh attacks has been broken by a combination of coalition air power and Iraqi security forces."
He said IS was diverting attacks to Haditha, 120 miles northwest of Baghdad, after losing Ramadi, the capital of the western province of Anbar. Warren denied claims by the group on 4 January that it had captured Barwana and Sakran, two towns near Haditha. IS had not taken "a single inch of land" since May 2015, when it captured Ramadi, Warren said. Its forces were in a "defensive crouching position", he added.