By Idris Okuducu
ERBIL, Iraq (AA) - The Daesh militant group has lost more than half of the areas it had controlled since seizing a quarter of Iraqi territory in 2014, a Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) official told Anadolu Agency.
“Daesh managed to totally seize the provinces of Mosul, Saladin and Anbar and some regions of the provinces of Kirkuk and Diyala. It advanced to the entrance of capital Baghdad and controlled some border areas near Syria and Jordan,” said Jabbar Yaver, secretary-general of the KRG’s Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs, which manages Kurdish fighters.
Yaver said the group had been weakened financially by the loss of many of its oil wells and was struggling to sell oil because its convoys have been targeted by U.S.-led international coalition forces in Iraq and by Russia in Syria.
He said that according to data Peshmerga Ministry, Daesh lost around 20,000 fighters in the past two years, bringing its total force to between 10,000 and 15,000.
Atheel al-Nujaifi, the head of Sunni group al-Hashd al-Watani, said they were 20 kilometers (around 13 miles) from Daesh’s stronghold Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, and were preparing for an operation to retake the city this year.
Al-Nujaifi, the former governor of the Nineveh province of which Mosul is the capital, said the Iraqi army and Peshmerga forces will participate in the operation as well as “sleeper cells inside Mosul that are ready for orders”.
Iraq has suffered from a devastating security vacuum since mid-2014, when Daesh suddenly seized Mosul and overran large swathes of territory in the northern and western parts of the country.
According to UN, more than 3.4 million people are displaced all over Iraq, more than half of them children, and more than 10 million people in the country need lifesaving humanitarian assistance.