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Gunbattles rage in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk after ISIL attack

Iraq

<p>Street battles between <span class="caps">ISIL</span> fighters and Kurdish forces erupted on Friday in Kirkuk after <span class="caps">ISIL</span> launched a series of surprise attacks in and around the city.</p> <p><span class="caps">ISIL</span> attacked several police buildings and a power station where eighteen members of the security forces were killed, a hospital official said.</p> <p>Kurdish forces are getting reinforcements and a curfew is now in place.</p> <p>Kirkuk lies in an oil rich region and is claimed by both the central government and the Kurds living in northern Iraq.</p> <p>Kurdish Peshmerga fighters took control of Kirkuk in 2014, after the Iraqi army withdrew from the region, fleeing an Islamic State advance through northern and western Iraq.</p> <p>Government soldiers and Kurdish fighters are now fighting alongside each other as they push ever nearer to the major Kurdish city of Mosul which remains under <span class="caps">ISIL</span> control.</p> <p>Analysts believe the battle to take the city from <span class="caps">ISIL</span> will be the biggest in Iraq since it was invaded by US led forces in 2003.</p> <p>Iraqi forces, aided by western airstrikes, say they have retaken several villages on the southern outskirts of Mosul.</p> <p>They have also taken over a nearby sulphur factory which <span class="caps">ISIL</span> fighters had set fire to, releasing toxic smoke over the area.</p> <p>Whilst few doubt the city will be re-taken by the Kurds and the Iraqi army it won’t solve who will take charge of Iraq’s second largest city.</p> <p>And the fear is that more fighting may be around the corner.</p>
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