The Iraqi army pushed into a town near the Islamic State-held city of Mosul on Sunday, one day after dozens of IS militants had stormed into Kirkuk, setting off clashes which killed nearly 80 people, mostly security forces.
US Defence Secretary Ash Carter meanwhile met with Iraqi commanders in Baghdad to discuss the offensive to retake Mosul, which the US is supporting with airstrikes and advisers on the ground.
The Iraqi army said the 9th Division has pushed into the town of Hamdaniyah, also known as Qaraqosh and Bakhdida, and raised the flag over its government compound.
However, the troops were still facing resistance in and around the town. Similar past announcements have often proved premature. The town is around 20 kilometres from Mosul.
Iraqi forces launched a wide-scale offensive earlier this week for retaking Mosul, the country's second largest city, which fell to dreaded terrorist group IS in 2014.
Hamdaniyah is believed to be largely uninhabited. IS has heavily mined the approaches to Mosul, and Iraqi forces have had to contend with roadside bombs, snipers and suicide truck bombs as they move closer to the city.
IS said it foiled an attack on Hamdaniyah and seized vehicles and weapons left by retreating Shiite militiamen. The claim, carried by the extremist group's Aamaq news agency, could not be confirmed.
An Iraqi television station said one of its reporters was shot dead near Mosul, the second journalist in as many days to be killed while covering the conflict.
Alsumaria TV said cameraman Ali Risan was shot in the chest by a sniper on Sunday during a battle in the al-Shura area.
Journalist Ahmet Haceroglu of Turkmeneli TV was shot dead by a militant sniper on Saturday, while covering the IS assault on Kirkuk.
Iraqi forces retook the town of Bartella, around 15 kilometres east of Mosul, earlier this week, but are still facing pockets of resistance in the area.
Inside Bartella, a road extending more than 100 metres was completely demolished, with all the homes on either side reduced to rubble.
IS graffiti was scrawled across the walls, and the militants appeared to have renamed streets and neighborhoods after famous fighters during more than two years they controlled the area.
In Kirkuk, meanwhile, some fighting continued a day after the IS assault on the city, some 170 kilometres southeast of Mosul. The wave of attacks in and around Kirkuk appeared to be an attempt to divert attention from Mosul.
The area around the provincial headquarters, where the fighting was heaviest on Saturday, was quiet. However, witnesses and police reported fighting in other parts of the city.
Brig Gen Khattab Omer of the Kirkuk police said at least 80 people were killed in the assault, mainly Kurdish security forces. Another 170 were wounded, he said, adding that a sundown curfew has been imposed on the city.