Iraqi government forces have made gains in their offensive to drive Islamic State militants from Falluja one the country’s two major cities in IS hands.
It was said that the nearby town of Karma, the first line of IS defence, is now in the army’s hands.
Large numbers of elite combat troops have also been deployed near Falluja, about 45 kilometres west of Baghdad.
But IS hit back north of Falluja, killing and injuring some Iraqi forces in a suicide car bomb attack.
A counter-attack south of the city was repelled with the help of helicopter gunships.
According to reports this comes days after the IS commander in Falluja, Maher al-Bilawi, was killed along with dozens of militants in US-led coalition air strikes.
Karma is now firmly under control of government forces, including rapid reaction troops and federal police.
Iran-backed Shia militias, which also took part in the fighting, have left graffiti on the walls of buildings in the town, including one saying, “Thank you, Iran.”
But Karma is now a ghost town, with not a single civilian to be seen and with rows of shops battered and burnt out and some bigger buildings badly damaged.it added.
Large number of the elite Counter-Terrorism Force have been brought up in preparation for an assault on the city itself.
However, it is not clear when the attack will begin.