BAGHDAD (AP) — Militants launched a brazen attack on a military base in a restive area in northern Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 10 soldiers and wounding 12, officials said.
The morning attack at the base outside the city of Mosul, about 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, started with a suicide bomber who detonated his explosives-laden truck at the gates of the facility, an army officer and a police officer said.
A group of gunmen then opened fire from apparently commandeered military Humvees and a shootout ensued. At least 10 troops were killed and 12 were wounded, the officials said. Eight militants were also killed in the fighting.
A medical official confirmed the causality figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to media.
Over the past months, Mosul and the surrounding region have seen bold attacks by militants, mainly from an al-Qaida-splinter group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, against military and security forces.
An in the adjacent province of Anbar to the west, ISIL seized control in December of parts of the provincial capital, Ramadi, and the center of the nearby city of Fallujah. Since then, Iraqi government security forces and allied Sunni tribal militias have been struggling to dislodge the militants.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attack, but suicide bombings and large-scale well-coordinated assaults are a hallmark of ISIL. Sunni insurgent groups have stepped up attacks across the country since last year, in bid to undermine the Shiite-led government.
Violence has escalated in Iraq over the past year, with 2013 seeing the highest death toll since the worst sectarian bloodletting in 2007, according to United Nations figures. More than 8,800 people were killed in violence last year.
The uptick in violence comes in a crucial time, as Iraqis prepare to hold parliamentary elections on April 30, the first such vote since U.S. forces left Iraq in 2001.
Authorities recently said there would be no balloting in parts of Anbar province where clashes are underway and which are not deemed safe.