Iraqi security forces have retaken most of the town of Jurf al-Sakhar near Baghdad from Islamic State militants, the biggest gains in months of fighting for the strategic area, Dailystar reported referring to senior local officials.
Full control of the town could allow Iraqi authorities to prevent the insurgents from edging closer to the capital and maintaining connections to their strongholds in western Anbar province as well as infiltrating the south.
"We have managed to push out Islamic State terrorists from the town of Jurf al-Sakhar today and now we are raising the Iraqi flag over the government offices," provincial governor Sadiq Madloul told.
Some Islamic State fighters had fled towards the western city of Falluja, which is held by the group, while fighting still raged near a bridge linking Jurf al-Sakhar to Anbar, said a commander and spokesman for Iraqi security forces.
"There has been a significant collapse among Islamic State fighters. Attacks by Iraqi army helicopters have not stopped since yesterday," said Raad Hamza, head of the Hilla Provincial Council.
Speaking by telephone, Hamza said he was in the town with Iraqi security forces.
It was not immediately possible to independently confirm his account of events in the town, about 60 kilometers south of Baghdad.
Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot, controls parts of northern and western Iraq and Syria and has threatened to redraw the map of the Middle East.
Sunni insurgents have been moving fighters, weapons and supplies from western Iraq through secret desert tunnels to Jurf al-Sakhar, Iraqi security officials have said.
In a separate development on Saturday, Kurdish forces retook the northern Iraqi town of Zumar and several nearby villages from Islamic State, security sources said.