At least 10 policemen have lost their lives in an attack on a checkpoint outside the city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq that local security sources said was carried out by Islamic State militants.

Police clashed with the gunmen for two hours in the town of Rashad, located 30km (19 miles) southwest Kirkuk, early on Sunday, police sources told Reuters. 

The militants planted roadside bombs to prevent reinforcements from reaching the checkpoint and managed to destroy three police vehicles, they added.

The attack, which the sources said was carried out by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) left 10 officers dead and four others injured.

A senior Iraqi police official has confirmed the incident to AFP but put the death toll on the part of the security forces at 13 people. He said the attack occurred shortly after midnight and also attributed it to IS. 

Despite a victory over Islamic State declared in the country more than three years ago, separate terrorist units remain active in Iraq, assaulting security forces, staging assassination attempts against officials and sabotaging infrastructure, including oil installations.

Many of their hideouts are located in Kirkuk, as they are hard to detect in the local rough terrain of hills and lowlands.

Sunday’s attack has become one of the deadliest carried out by the group since the start of the year.

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