"Islamic State" fighters have detonated car bombs targeting security checkpoints at the northern Iraqi city of Samarra. The group has intensified attacks on the city in recent months.
At least three people died in Samarra on Thursday when fighters from the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" (IS) detonated car bombs at security checkpoints on the city's western outskirts.
Those killed are understood to be two policemen and one civilian. The dawn car bomb attacks were followed by rocket and mortar fire, one official said. Dozens are believed wounded.
Samarra's police chief, Mahmoud Khalaf, told the dpa news agency that government troops had regained nearby areas and a highway with the help of Shiite militiamen, after they were briefly seized by the militants.
Samarra, which lies around 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, and its surrounding areas have come under intensified attack by the Islamic State. In 2014, the IS militia, headed by leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, seized territory in northern Syria and western Iraq, declaring a "caliphate" over the area it holds.
Seizing Samarra, a Sunni-majority city that is home to a significant Shiite shrine, would strengthen gains by the IS in northern Iraq, and threaten the capital, Baghdad.
The Islamic State has been the target of a 60-nation US-led coalition conducting air strikes in Iraq and Syria.
jr/msh (dpa, Reuters, AP)