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Kirkuk hit by wave of suicide bombs and fighting in IS counter-attack

Gunmen wearing suicide vests attack targets in Kurdish-controlled Iraqi city as battle for Mosul continues
Peshmerga forces stand behind rocks at a site of an attack by Islamic State militants in Kirkuk (Reuters)

Islamic State militants wearing suicide vests attacked government targets in the Kurdish-controlled city of Kirkuk and killed 16 at an Iranian-run building site on Friday in an apparent counter-attack as troops advanced on the IS bastion of Mosul.

Live video from Rudaw and Kurdistan24 showed gun battles ongoing inside Kirkuk. The IS propaganda wing, Amaq, said on Twitter that its fighters were involved in the assaults, and claimed to control several areas of the city.

The fighting reportedly began at about 3am local time as suicide bombers armed with rifles attacked multiple locations in Kirkuk, security sources said.

Pictures on social media showed debris and dead fighters inside Kirkuk, and governors placed a curfew on the city. Six Iraqi police and 12 IS fighters were reported killed in the clashes, according to the police.

Witnesses told the AFP news agency that dozens of IS fighters were in the streets of the city, while peshmerga reinforcements were reported to be moving to Kirkuk from Erbil.

An AFP correspondent saw nine IS militants walk down a street in the Adan district. Witnesses saw small groups of gunmen entering mosques and other buildings elsewhere in the city.

A Kurdish intelligence officer said four suicide bombers attacked the main police headquarters in the city at about 3am local time.

"The security forces managed to shoot one of them dead, the other three blew themselves up," he said.

Several other targets in the south of the city were attacked by what the officer said were members of IS, sparking clashes with security forces.

Reports said that some of the militants had been living in the city before launching their assault.

Hours later, three bombers infiltrated a power station being built by an Iranian company near Dibis, about 40km northwest of Kirkuk, the mayor said.

"Three suicide bombers attacked the power plant at around 6am, killing 12 Iraqi administrators and engineers and four Iranian technicians," Dibis mayor Abdullah Nureddin al-Salehi told AFP.

A police lieutenant colonel confirmed the toll.

The mayor said the attack led to clashes with security forces, who managed to kill one of the bombers before he detonated his vest. The other two blew themselves up once they were surrounded, he said.

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters took control of Kirkuk in 2014, after the Iraqi army withdrew from the region, fleeing an Islamic State advance through northern and western Iraq.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.