Sunni militants attacked and took control of parts of the central Iraq city of Baquba, but security forces eventually repelled the assault on Tuesday, army and police officers said.
The overnight attack took place in the centre of Baquba, capital of Diyala province, and according to the officers, saw fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) temporarily occupying several neighbourhoods.
Security forces and civilian fighters still hold parts of Tal Afar, in Nineveh province, along a strategic corridor to Syria, according to deputy provincial council chief Nuriddin Qabalan.
Militants were also beaten back from the village of Basheer, 15 kilometres south of the city of Kirkuk after an hour of clashes with local militia and police forces.
The government of Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is seeking to repel the Sunni militants who have seized several cities over the past week.
ISIL fighters and other Sunni militants have swept through towns in the Tigris valley north of Baghdad in recent days but appeared to have halted their advance outside the capital on Sunday as they tightened their grip on the north.
ISIL’s advance may pose the biggest security crisis to Iraq since the worst of the sectarian bloodshed that followed the US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Iraqi state news channel Iraqiya said that the army had killed two commanders from ISIL on Tuesday. It did not say where in Iraq.
Warning from Kurdistan
The prime minister of the Kurdistan region of Iraq warned on Tuesday that it will be “almost impossible” for Iraq to return to how it was before recent sweeping gains by jihadist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),
Nechirvan Barzani told the BBC it would be difficult to find a resolution with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in power and recommended an autonomous region for Sunnis as a potential solution.
ISIL militants are said to have killed scores of Iraqi soldiers as they pushed towards the capital, a massacre that has drawn international condemnation and prompted diplomatic evacuations in Baghdad.
ISIL launched their lightning offensive in Iraq’s second city Mosul a week ago.