Baghdad: Islamic State have launched a counter attack in north Iraq. 19 people have reportedly been killed in and around Kirkuk city. They attacked government buildings, killing at least six police officers, and a power station under construction, where 13 employees died, officials say.
12 IS fighters also reportedly died and fighting seems to be continuing.
An American soldier died on Thursday from wounds sustained in a bombing in northern Iraq, the U.S. military said. Three other service members have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led coalition began launching airstrikes against IS in August 2014.
It was the first U.S. service member to die from fighting in Iraq since the launch of a massive operation to retake the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-held city of Mosul earlier this week. More than 100 U.S. special operations forces are embedded with Iraqi units, and hundreds more are playing a support role in staging bases.
The statement did not say whether the service member was involved in the offensive. It said the soldier was wounded by an “improvised explosive device,” or roadside bomb.
Government and Kurdish forces began a long-awaited operation against the IS capital in Iraq, Mosul, on Monday. Mosul lies 170km (105 miles) to the north-east of Kirkuk, a multi-ethnic city claimed both by Iraq’s central government and the Kurds.
Government forces said on Friday they had regained control of a further two villages – al-Awaizat and Nanaha – south of Mosul, evacuating 65 displaced families and killing 15 IS militants.
Hours after the initial assault, witnesses in Kirkuk said gunfire could still be heard and militants were walking openly through the streets. Initial reports suggested as many as 16 civilians had been killed.
Local media say a state of emergency has been declared and Friday sermons have been cancelled as mosques remain closed. A news agency affiliated to IS said fighters had broken into Kirkuk’s city hall and seized a central hotel but officials denied this.
District police chief Brig Gen Sarhad Qadir told suicide bombers and other IS fighters had attacked three police buildings and the headquarters of a political party in Kirkuk.
“All of the militants who attacked the police emergency building and the old building of the Kirkuk police directorate have been killed but a number of other militants are still in Dumez district,” he said.
The governor of Kirkuk, Najm al-Din Karim, insisted that Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and counter-terrorism forces were completely in control of the situation. He blamed the attack on IS sleeper cells.