Iraq: Series of deadly explosions hit Kirkuk

At least six improvised explosive devices go off, killing several people and wounding more than a dozen, military says.

    Several people have been killed and more than a dozen others wounded in a series of blasts that struck the city of Kirkuk, the Iraqi military has said.

    At least six improvised explosive devices went off on Thursday in the northern city and two more were defused by security forces, the military said in a statement.

    It gave a death toll of three people and said 16 others were wounded.

    Unidentified security officials told The Associated Press news agency that the blasts killed at least four people and wounded 23, while medical sources in Kirkuk's general hospital told Reuters news agency that at least five people were killed and 18 wounded.

    There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Saad Harbya, the head of Kirkuk security operations, blamed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) armed group.

    Speaking on Rudaw TV, he accused ISIL of trying to "retaliate against the harsh attacks by Iraqi forces", adding that the situation was under control.

    The explosions reportedly struck in the centre of Kirkuk, in a commercial area that has several shopping centres, cafes and restaurants, sending people fleeing in panic.

    The blasts went off in quick succession after iftar, the meal that breaks daylong fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when streets are typically crowded with shoppers and people out having dinner.

    Police blocked off all roads leading to the blast sites and were allowing only ambulances to transfer the wounded to nearby hospitals. 

    Iraq declared victory over ISIL, which once held large swaths of the country, in December 2017.

    But ISIL has switched to hit-and-run attacks aimed at undermining the central government in Iraq's capital, Baghdad.

    Its fighters have regrouped in the Hamrin mountain range in the northeast, which extends from Diyala province, on the border with Iran, crossing northern Salahuddin province and southern Kirkuk.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies