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At least nine police officers have been killed in bomb and gun attacks in northern Iraq.

The attack took place on Sunday near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, about 290 kilometers from the capital Baghdad. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack.

IS has already said it was behind a roadside bomb that killed three Iraqi soldiers near Baghdad on Wednesday.

Sunday’s attack began when a bomb targeted a truck carrying police near the village of Chalal al-Matar, officials told news agency AFP. The explosion was carried out by direct attack with small arms.

The police official added, ‘One assailant has been killed and we are looking for others. Two policemen were also injured in the attack.’

An official in Baghdad’s interior ministry confirmed the attack.

IS once occupied 88,000 square km of territory stretching from eastern Iraq to western Syria and imposed its brutal rule on some 8 million people.

But Iraqi forces declared victory over the Islamist group in December 2017, when its troops drove IS militants from the Syrian border region where the Islamists held their final stronghold.

The group was expelled from its last territory in 2019. But the UN warned in July that their threat remains.

There are estimated to be between 6,000 and 10,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq, mostly based in rural areas and carrying out hit-and-run attacks, ambushes and roadside bombings.

Despite ‘significant leadership losses’, the group has been able to ‘exploit security gaps and conditions conducive to the proliferation of terrorism to recruit and organize and carry out sophisticated attacks,’ the UN observed in its report.

(Dhaka Times / 19 December / SAT)