BAGHDAD: Attacks in Iraq, including a coordinated assault on security forces in the ethnically-mixed northern city of Kirkuk, killed nine people on Wednesday as a surge in bloodshed showed no let-up.
The rise in violence, which has killed more than 6,200 people this year, has prompted the authorities to appeal for international help in combating militancy ahead of a general election due in April.
Officials have blamed a resurgent Al-Qaeda emboldened by the civil war in neighbouring Syria, but the government has itself faced criticism for not doing enough to address the concerns of Iraq's disaffected Sunni Arab minority.
The deadliest of Wednesday's violence hit the oil hub of Kirkuk, which has been made fertile ground for insurgents by longstanding Kurdish calls for its inclusion in their autonomous region in the north, despite opposition from Baghdad and non-Kurds among its mixed population.
A car bomb, targeting a police intelligence office in the city centre, was followed by a firefight between militants and security forces at the scene.
In all, at least six people were killed and more than 70 wounded, security and medical officials said.
Attacks in Baghdad, Fallujah and near Tikrit, killed three more people, officials said.
The authorities have made some concessions aimed at placating Sunni Arabs, including freeing prisoners and raising the salaries of anti-Al-Qaeda fighters, and have also trumpeted security operations against militants.
But daily attacks have shown no sign of abating.
Despite a near-ubiquitous security force presence, attacks have hit targets ranging from cafes and football grounds to military checkpoints and government vehicles.