At least nine federal police officers have been killed in a bombing in north-central Iraq near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, security officials say.
The bomb struck the policemen’s convoy on Sunday near the village of Safra, about 30km (20 miles) southwest of Kirkuk. Two other officers were critically injured.
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A federal police officer told the AFP news agency that “a direct attack with small arms” followed the explosion.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) said on its Telegram channel that it had carried out the attack.
ISIL, which had captured swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in 2014, was defeated by an international military coalition, led by the United States. The armed group lost its last stronghold in 2019, but its sleeper cells continue to carry out attacks in Iraq and Syria.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, who ordered a hunt for the perpetrators, said security forces should show “vigilance, carefully inspect the roads and not provide any opportunity for terrorist elements”.
Kirkuk, which is 240km (150 miles) north of Baghdad, was seized from Kurdish groups by Iraqi security forces in 2017.
The Kurdish Regional Government had taken control of the city after Iraqi forces fled and ISIL gained more territory in the country.
A United Nations report released in August said ISIL maintains an underground network of 6,000 to 10,000 fighters capable of carrying out attacks on both sides of the porous Iraq-Syria border.
The latest incident followed an attack on Wednesday when a roadside bomb hit a military vehicle, killing three Iraqi soldiers on farmland north of Baghdad, according to the Ministry of Defence. No group has claimed responsibility for that attack.
In November, another unclaimed attack on a remote northern military post killed four soldiers near Kirkuk, according to military sources.
ISIL claimed responsibility for twin suicide attacks in January 2021 in a Baghdad market in which 32 people died, marking the first such incident in the city in more than three years.