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Iraq: Four soldiers killed in pre-dawn assault in disputed northern area

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack in region where remnants of Islamic State and the PKK are active
Iraqi-Kurdish Peshmerga officers take part in a graduation ceremony in Erbil, the capital of Iraq's northern autonomous Kurdish region, on 15 September 2022 (AFP)

Four soldiers were killed on Saturday in a pre-dawn machine-gun attack on a remote northern Iraqi military post, a source has told AFP.

Though no group has claimed responsibility, the attack took place in a region where remnants of the Islamic State group (IS) are active as well as Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels waging an insurgency against Turkey.

Both Baghdad's forces and those of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region claim the area where the assault occurred.

Iraqi-Kurdish fighters are deployed about one kilometre from the post that was attacked, said the source, who asked not to be identified.

The PKK has kept up a deadly insurgency for Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkey since the 1980s and maintains rear bases in Iraq.

Turkish forces regularly carry out military operations against the group, designated a terrorist group by Ankara and its western allies.

In early November, a Turkish drone strike in northern Iraq killed at least one PKK member, officials from Iraqi Kurdistan announced at the time.

Missile and drone strikes

Meanwhile, neighbouring Iran, shaken by two months of anti-government demonstrations, accuses Kurdish-Iranian opposition groups based in northern Iraq of stoking the "riots".

The autonomous Kurdish region hosts several Iranian-Kurdish opposition groups, which have in the past waged an armed insurrection against Tehran.

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In recent years their activities have declined, but the wave of protests in Iran has fuelled tensions once again.

The protests follow the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman of Kurdish origin.

On Monday, Iran launched cross-border missile and drone strikes, killing at least one person according to local authorities.

Iran also carried out strikes in late September that killed more than a dozen people. 

In the same region of Iraq, IS cells continue sporadic attacks against Iraqi soldiers and police, particularly in desert and mountain areas.

IS seized large parts of Iraqi territory before the militants' defeat in late 2017 by Iraqi forces backed by a US-led military coalition. The anti-IS coalition continued a combat role in Iraq until last December, but roughly 2,500 US soldiers remain.

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