Islamic State launched a surprise attack on Sunday in western Iraq, where the radical militia is under increasing pressure, Iraqi military said. 

The extremists targeted the town of Hit, around 110 kilometres west of Baghdad, with heavy shelling and suicide bombings.

“Military units and tribal fighters managed to repulse the attack and killed 40 Daesh elements,” said Ali al-Zawabi of the army Seventh Division based in Hit, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

He told dpa that six government fighters were killed, and eight others, including the police chief in Hit, were injured in ensuing clashes.

However, Amaq, a news agency linked to Islamic State, reported that the group took control of half of the town and killed at least 40 government fighters. 

The attack comes as government forces, backed by a US-led air alliance, are pressing ahead with an offensive aimed at driving Islamic State from Fallujah, the radical group’s stronghold in western Iraq.

Hit is strategically located near the Ain al-Assad airbase where US troops are training Iraqi forces.

Government forces retook Hit from Islamic State last month.

In December 2015, Iraqi troops had driven the militants out of Ramadi, the capital city of the western Anbar province.

Islamic State still controls Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest northern city.

Iraqi Kurdish fighters, backed by US-led airstrikes, Sunday retook villages from Islamic State near Mosul, Kurds said.

The reported advance came after Peshmerga Kurdish forces attacked Islamic State positions in the area of Khazer, around 45 kilometres north-east of Mosul.

At least 36 militants, including six would-be suicide bombers, were killed in the offensive, Kurdish military said. No Kurdish casualties were given.

The Peshmerga, the troops of Iraq’s autonomous region of Kurdistan, have in recent months played a key role in dislodging Islamic State from areas that the al-Qaeda splinter group had seized in northern Iraq during a lightning onslaught in 2014.

Sunday's attack was ordered by Kurdistan’s President Massoud Barzani, Aziz Wessi, a Peshmerga commander, said.

"The Peshmerga’s victory in this operation will make Erbil secure from dangers," Wessi told reporters, referring to the capital of Kurdistan.

In recent months, Islamic State has suffered military setbacks and lost ground in Iraq and neighbouring Syria.

Latest news

Merkel calls for fewer EU regulations as nationalist sentiments grow

As voters in the Netherlands, France and Germany show increasing support for nationalist, euro-sceptic political movements ahead of this year's elections, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for limits on EU regulations.

French prosecutors transfer Fillon case to investigative judge

The French judiciary has opened a formal investigation in connection with presidential candidate Francois Fillon to examine whether the employment of his wife as a parliamentary employee was a sham, the country's financial prosecutors' office said Friday.

White House bars major news outlets from press briefing

Major news organizations, which were Friday blocked by the White House from attending an informal press briefing, condemned the move just hours after President Donald Trump described parts of the media as "the enemy of the people."

Report: German intelligence spied on BBC, other foreign journalists

Germany's intelligence agency monitored foreign journalists at the BBC, the New York Times and other news organizations from 1999 onwards across several countries, according to a Friday report from Der Spiegel magazine.

Classroom for Islamic religious education opened in Split

A classroom for Islamic religious education, whose equipment was financially assisted by city and county authorities, was opened in the coastal city of Split on Friday.

Ministry say no licences for export of military goods to Saudi Arabia issued in 2016

The Economy, Enterprise and Crafts Ministry on Friday issued a statement regarding media reports about export licences for military goods, stressing that in 2016 it did not issue any licences for the export of military goods to Saudi Arabia.

Croatia for preserving Bosnia's stability

Croatia on Friday supported the stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), calling on its authorities to adopt decisions in institutions, after a request by BiH Presidency Bosniak member Bakir Izetbegovic to review a ruling which acquitted Serbia of genocide.

Mexico is not a migrant "waiting room" for US, interior minister says

Mexico will not accept undocumented immigrants from other countries whom the United States plans to deport, Mexico's interior minister said Friday.

Right-wing populist Wilders declines first Dutch election debate

Candidates from nine Dutch parties answered questions from journalists Friday at the first national radio debate of the election campaign, but the leading candidate

Bosnian Croat reps insist on channel airing programmes in Croatian

Being one of the constituent peoples, the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina are entitled to a broadcaster that will air programmes in their native language, HNS BiH official Ivan Vukoja said at a news conference in Mostar on Friday.

Same-sex couples in Slovenia can marry

A Slovenian law allowing same-sex couples to marry went into force on Friday and the first civil registrar ceremony, between two women, is to take place in Maribor on Saturday, the town's Vecer daily said.

Moody's changes Agrokor's outlook to negative

The Moody's rating agency on Friday changed its outlook for the Agrokor food retailer from stable to negative, affirming its rating of B3.