Iraqi security officials said gunmen from the Islamic State extremist group attacked an army barracks in a mountainous area north of Baghdad early Friday, killing 11 soldiers.
Officials said the attack took place in the al-Azeem district, an open area north of Bakuba in Diyala province. The circumstances of the attack were not immediately clear, but two officials who spoke to the Associated Press said militants from the Islamic State group broke into the barracks at 3 a.m. local time and shot soldiers.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to issue an official statement.
The brazen attack, more than 120 kilometers north of the capital Baghdad, was the deadliest attack targeting Iraqi forces in recent months.
The Islamic State group was largely defeated in the country in 2017, although it remains active through sleeper cells in several areas. Terrorists from the Sunni Muslim extremist group still operate, often targeting security forces, power stations and other infrastructure.
In October, IS militants armed with machine guns raided a Shiite-dominated village in Diyala province, killing 11 civilians and injuring several others. Officials at the time said the attack took place when the militants kidnapped the villagers and their ransom demands were not met.
Army personnel were sent to the village where the attack took place on Friday and security forces were deployed in the surrounding areas, officials said. More details were not immediately available, and the Iraqi military did not immediately comment.
IS attacks have been on the rise in recent months in both Iraq and neighboring Syria, where the group once established a self-styled Islamic caliphate before being defeated by an international coalition.
On Thursday evening, IS militants launched a complex attack on a detention facility in northeastern Syria and tried to free the group’s fighters locked up there.
Kurdish-led forces controlling Gerwan prison in the town of Hasakeh, which houses about 3,000 prisoners, said inmates rioted and tried to escape, while a car bomb went off outside the prison as gunmen clashed with security forces.
The US-led coalition launched an airstrike after Syrian-led Kurdish forces reported casualties. The Syrian Kurdish force said on Friday that two of the fleeing militants had been arrested.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said six militants, two Kurdish security members and a civilian were killed in the overnight clashes. The Kurdish force had no reports of casualties.
In 2014, IS established a self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate, which covered large parts of Iraq and Syria. The ensuing war against them lasted for many years and devastated large parts of the two neighboring countries. It also left US-allied Kurdish officials in control of eastern and northeastern Syria, with a small presence of several hundred US forces still stationed there.