Extremist gunmen, some of them wearing suicide vests, attacked the Iraqi city of Kirkuk Friday, an apparent effort to divert the thousands of troops and militiamen closing in on their Mosul stronghold.

 

Iraqi government forces

 

The assault, together with another further north, left at least 22 people dead and came as pro-government forces were making major gains on the fifth day of their advance on the last major urban center held by ISIS in Iraq.

 

An AFP correspondent saw a group of men carrying rifles and grenades and wearing “Afghan-style clothes” walk down a street in Kirkuk, an ethnically divided city to the south of Mosul under Kurdish control.

 

At least five suicide bombers struck government targets in the city, including the main police headquarters, in a coordinated attack that began in the middle of the night.

 

ISIS claimed the attack, according to the ISIS-affiliated Amaq news agency.

 

Gunfire and explosions echoed across the city all morning, residents said, and live footage on local television showed street battles in several neighborhoods.