Thirteen gunmen died carrying out revenge attacks on army checkpoints in north Iraq on Tuesday after dawn clashes between protesters and security forces left 27 people dead, top army officers said.
The gunmen were killed in attacks on checkpoints in the Al-Rashad and Al-Riyadh areas of Kirkuk province, the officers said.
The attacks followed deadly fighting between security forces and protesters near Hawijah, also in Kirkuk province, in which 27 people were killed and about 70 wounded, the officers said.
According to the officers, the demonstration near the northern town of Hawijah was infiltrated by gunmen, but a protest organiser said no one wanted by security forces was present.
The organiser, Abdulmalik al-Juburi, said the Hawijah clashes sparked the revenge attacks.
"There have been fierce clashes which led to the killing of 13 revolutionaries against the policy of the government," Juburi said.
"When they heard the news about the killed and wounded in the sit-in, sons of the tribes from all the villages in Kirkuk cut the roads and attacked checkpoints and military headquarters and took control of some of the checkpoints for a short time," he said.
Protesters have taken to the streets in Sunni-majority areas of Iraq for more than four months, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and decrying the alleged targeting of their minority community by the Shiite-led authorities.