FILE IRAQ FALLUJAH IS MILITARY OPERATION.jpg
Photograph: EPA/NAWRAS AAMER

Iraqi forces, backed by US-led airstrikes, entered a strategic Islamic State-controlled area in the country's west on Saturday, hours after starting a major offensive there against the extremist militia, military sources said.

The Iraqi forces stormed the frontlines of Khalidiya Island, around 23 kilometres east of Ramadi, the capital city of the western Anbar province, after encountering weak resistance from Islamic State militants, the sources added.

"The international [US-led] coalition warplanes have bombed heavily the positions of the radical organization in the area," a military official told dpa on condition of anonymity.

"At least 20 militants have been killed in the air raids," the official added.

The government forces' advance into the area was slowed by fears of mines and other explosives that might have been planted by Islamic State, according to the official.

No figures were given for casualties among government troops.

Earlier Saturday, government forces backed by the powerful Shiite Popular Mobilization militia launched a major operation to "liberate" Khalidiya, an Iraqi military media centre said.

Khalidiya is strategically important because it is located on supply routes for Islamic State militants, who have lost ground in Iraq in recent months.

In December 2015, Iraq regained Ramadi from Islamic State as part of a sustained US-backed campaign against the radical Sunni group.

The militants have since used Khalidiya as a launch pad for mounting attacks on Ramadi.

Last month, Iraq announced retaking full control of the western city of Fallujah from Islamic State.

The al-Qaeda splinter group still controls Mosul, Iraq's second largest city.

Latest news

Trump administration reverses transgender bathroom protections

The Trump administration on Wednesday withdrew Obama-era guidance about the use of school and university bathrooms by transgender students, local media reported.

Several Dakota Access Pipeline protesters arrested as deadline passes

Several people at a camp protesting against a controversial oil pipeline in the US state of North Dakota were arrested Wednesday after a deadline to vacate the land passed, local media reported.

Germany deports 18 rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan

A Kabul-bound plane with 18 Afghan migrants on board took off from Munich Airport late Wednesday, its passengers becoming the third group of rejected asylum seekers to be deported by German authorities back to Afghanistan.

New Romanian justice minister named after anti-corruption protests

Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu has named a former judge to be the country's next justice minister, after the previous office holder resigned under pressure from mass anti-corruption protests.

Le Pen's chief of staff indicted in European Parliament jobs probe

The chief of staff of Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate for president in upcoming French elections, was indicted Wednesday over allegations of irregular reimbursements from the European Parliament, a judicial source told dpa.

Montenegrin police extradites Miodrag Jovic to Croatia

Montenegrin police reported on Wednesday that they extradited to Croatia Miodrag Jovic (48) from Glina, after whom Interpol Zagreb issued an arrest warrant.

Croatian minister attends CoMoCoSEE conference in Albania

Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Korzinek participated in a third conference of the Council of Ministers of Culture of South-Eastern Europe (CoMoCoSEE) that took place in Tirana on February 21-22.

New Somali president asks al-Shabaab to surrender to 'help' country

Somalia's newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo asked Islamist terrorist group al-Shabaab to surrender in order "to help rebuild" the conflict-ridden East African nation.

Serbia's EU negotiator says minority rights neglected

The head of the Serbia's European Union accession negotiation team, Tanja Miscevic, said in Novi Sad on Wednesday that minority rights had been neglected for many years and added that positive results in that regard cannot be achieved over night, the Beta news agency has reported. 

Scientists: Nearby star's 7 rocky planets are "best bet" for life

New analysis of telescope data shows a dwarf star just 40 light years from Earth has at least seven apparently rocky planets with potential to harbour water, an international team of scientists announced Wednesday.

Croatian PM receives EIB Vice-President

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic met on Wednesday with European Investment Bank (EIB) Vice-President Dario Scannapieco for talks on the bank's contribution to a new investment cycle in Croatia and its support to the Croatian government to implement key projects, a press release from the government's office said.

Bomb explodes outside police officer's home in Northern Ireland

A bomb exploded outside a police officer's home in Northern Ireland on Wednesday but there were no immediate reports of casualties.