"Ibrahim Ismail was killed on the main road as he was heading to the technological institute south of Kirkuk," police chief General Turhan Yusuf said.
 
He said the official was shot several times in the head when six assailants in a van sprayed his vehicle with gunfire. Three of his bodyguards were wounded, one of them seriously. Two teachers, accompanying the official, were also wounded, Aljazeera has learned.

Ismail was a member of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, a party which has organised protests condemning what it describes as attempts by the city's Kurdish community to seize Turkmen and Arab land.

The assassinated official had also been at the centre of a heated debate in the ethnically-divided city over which languages should be taught in schools.

Most Turkmen oppose the Kurdish groups which controlled three northern provinces after the 1991 Gulf wars in defiance of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Falluja fighting

Earlier on Tuesday, resistance fighters opened fire on three policemen as they left a restaurant in Kirkuk, wounding three of them, police said.

Another policeman was injured when a roadside bomb exploded near his police patrol late on Monday.

Also on Monday, several Iraqi fighters were killed in Falluja when US troops responded to an attack by opening tank fire, a US spokesman reportedly said.

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas V. Johnson said the US troops were attacked with rocket-propelled grenades and mortars shortly after 1500 GMT in the northeastern sector of the city.