More than 10 workers were killed in northern Iraq on Friday as the Islamic State group launched an attack near Kirkuk city, in an apparent move to distract Iraqi forces from their operation to retake the besieged city of Mosul. Militants targeted the oil-producing region, located between Baghdad and Mosul, with assault rifles and explosives, AFP reported. They stormed into a power plant to the north of Kirkuk and blew themselves up, and also attacked police stations.

Witnesses said they heard a number of explosions and that the fighting was mainly restricted to the compound of the government-owned plant. The Islamic State-affiliated Aamaq news agency said the group had also targeted the area's provincial headquarters. However, local Kurdish television channel Rudaw quoted Kirkuk Governor Najmadin Karim as saying that the outfit's fighters had not seized any government buildings. The gunbattle is underway, and there has been no official word on casualties, though news agencies have been providing their own tolls.

Kirkuk is located some 170 km from Mosul, which is the last Islamic State group stronghold in Iraq. On October 17, government troops and Kurdish militias – backed by a Unites States-led coalition – launched an offensive to capture the country's second largest city, in the largest military operation since the US withdrew its troops from Iraq in 2014.

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi had said on Thursday that the offensive to capture Mosul was progressing faster than planned, Reuters reported. At least 20 villages on the outskirts of the city have been secured, so far.