Suspected jihadists in northern Iraq detonated bombs targeting military vehicles, killing two soldiers and wounding three, security sources said Thursday.
There was no immediate claim for the attack which took place late Wednesday near Dibs outside the northern city of Kirkuk, but army officers blamed the killing on fighters of the Islamic State group.
Two army vehicles were hit by twin roadside blasts set off by “IS elements” before gunmen opened fire on those in the wreckage with automatic weapons, an officer said speaking on condition of anonymity.
Two soldiers were killed and three wounded, he said, a toll confirmed by a police source.
The attack took place in a zone falling between areas controlled by the federal government and the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
In the face of repeated attacks by IS, the two forces have said they will boost cooperation to avoid creating a security vacuum.
On Sunday, Islamic State group jihadists said they had carried out an attack near Kirkuk killing nine police officers, again by setting off a roadside bomb then machine-gunning survivors.
IS jihadists seized large swathes of Iraq and neighboring Syria in 2014, declaring a “caliphate” which they ruled with brutality before their defeat by Iraqi forces backed by a US-led coalition in late 2017.
IS lost its last Syrian bastion, near the Iraqi border, in 2019.
IS cells, however, remain active in several areas of Iraq.
The UN estimates the jihadist organization maintains between 6,000 and 10,000 fighters inside Iraq and Syria, exploiting the porous border between the two countries and concentrating mainly in rural areas.
The US-led coalition ended its combat role in Iraq in December last year, but some 2,500 US soldiers remain in the country to assist in the fight against the jihadists.
Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, during a meeting Wednesday with security officials, told officers to “change the military tactics” used in areas where IS fighters remain, and “to adopt unconventional methods of fighting” to combat them.
Previously he had denounced “mistakes by the security services,” referring to the deadly ambush against police on Sunday. “There is a clear failure which led to this tragedy,” he said.