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  • Sana Uqba

Baghdad bloodshed 'proof of Islamic State's bruised ego'

A wave of bomb blasts has caused yet more blood to spill in the streets of Baghdad this week, but officials are adamant that Islamic State group militants have lost significant ground in Iraq, saying the group now only controls 14 percent of territory in the country.

"We declare that Daesh's presence has receded in the cities and provinces of Iraq," said the government's spokesman, Saad al-Hadithi, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

"They were occupying 40 percent of Iraq's territory but now only 14 percent is under their control."

But despite the progress, his comments came amid a fresh increase of violence in Iraq, where at least 94 people were killed in just one day as three attacks rocked the capital on Wednesday.

Dozens of regular Iraqis from the Shia-majority Sadr City lost their lives as they shopped for vegetables in a popular market.

Likewise, others carrying out mundane daily tasks in Kadhmiya, where the other two explosives were detonated, returned home in body bags. At least six Iraqi police officers were killed and 14 others wounded when a suicide attack targeted a police station in western Baghdad as bombs continued to detonate on Thursday.

Despite this, the statement was reinforced by a US official who said the group was "losing terrain every single day".

So how does one explain this to the devastated families left to pick up the pieces of their lives?

Quick mission The fact is, bar the creation or procurement of explosives, it does not take much for the Islamic State group to send out a militant on a self-proclaimed "holy mission" to blow people up - and yet, the hullaballoo this creates for the group is priceless.

Baghdad-based Major General Gary Volesky said the Islamic State group's "ability to conduct large-scale offensive operations has primarily stopped", noting "they're more on the defensive, trying to delay Iraqi security forces just to buy time".

In June 2014, the Islamic State group launched a massive offensive in Iraq, striking their notorious black and white flag into the highest of grounds as security forces were forced out of huge swathes of territory.

But two years on, several key cities, such as Tikrit and Ramadi have fallen and analysts say the attacks witnessed this week prove that the organisation has its back against the wall.

Comments from the US military infer the suicide attack tactic - sometimes conducted using just one militant - confirm the the group's decreasing power in the country.

At the start of the US-led anti-IS coalition in August 2014, "we used to see, you know, 50, 60, 70 fighters, now what we're seeing is five to eight, maybe 15, with a VBIED [car suicide bomber] associated," Volesky said.

But they no longer "generate these large operations", he said.

"We expect it's about a two- to three-week cycle after they do an operation to be able just to try to generate enough combat power to maintain relevance, frankly."

As it proudly claimed responsibility on Wednesday, IS declared the attacks "the invasion of Sheikh Abu Ali al-Anbari", referring to one of the leaders who was killed last month during a government offensive that recaptured Hit in Anbar province.

With the government having failed to secure the capital, the wave of deaths will only add to the political pressure upon Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi as he continues to battle it out with his colleagues in parliament.

"We will have to review our position in light of these developments, as the recent attacks undermine reports that the capital city is clear of IS," Mohammed Awni, a senior officer, told The New Arab.

But while government forces continue to bruise the self-proclaimed caliphate's ego on the wider battlefield, Iraq continues to brace itself for further battering, beating and bloodshed.

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