KIRKUK/BAGHDAD: Gunmen opened fire at a federal police checkpoint in rural northern Iraq, sparking clashes that killed 13 police, a security official said Sunday.
He blamed the attack on Daesh and said the clashes with the militants lasted for nearly an hour.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.
The attack, in the region of Al-Rashad around 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of Kirkuk city, took place just after midnight, a senior Iraqi police officer told AFP.
“Members of the Islamic State (Daesh) organization targeted a federal police checkpoint,” said the officer, who did not want to be named.
“Thirteen were killed and three wounded” among the security forces, the officer added.
Militants used roadside bombs to prevent police reinforcements from reaching the post, destroying three police vehicles, police sources said.
A medical source based in Kirkuk confirmed the toll.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Separately, at least three Iraqi soldiers were killed and one was wounded on Sunday when gunmen attacked an army checkpoint southeast of the Iraqi city of Mosul, security sources said.
Daesh seized swathes of Iraq in a lightning offensive in 2014, before being beaten back by a counter-insurgency campaign supported by a US-led military coalition.
The Iraqi government declared the Sunni extremists defeated in late 2017, but they retain sleeper cells which continue to hit security forces with asymmetric attacks.
Militant cells regularly target the Iraqi army and police in northern Iraq, but this attack was one of the most deadly this year.
A July 19 bombing claimed by Daesh officially killed 30 people in the Al-Woheilat market in Sadr City, a Shiite suburb of Baghdad.
International coalition troops in Iraq currently number around 3,500, of which 2,500 are US troops.
But Washington has been drawing down its military presence amid attacks on facilities it uses by Iran-aligned armed groups and has said that from next year the role of US troops will be limited to training and advising their Iraqi counterparts.
Last Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Iraqi Kurdistan and expressed concern about an IS “resurgence” in both Iraq and Syria.
He also said that French soldiers deployed in Iraq as part of the international coalition will remain in the country “no matter what choices the Americans make.”
(With AFP, AP and Reuters)