BAGHDAD - THREE teams of gunmen with grenade launchers and machine guns swooped on jewellery shops in Kirkuk in northern Iraq on Tuesday, killing 10 people, five of them policemen, a security official said.

'Unknown gunmen armed with grenade launchers and machine guns attacked the Al-Asri market in the centre of Kirkuk,' police commander Salam Zanganeh said.

'Ten people were killed, among them five policemen, and 15 were wounded, two of them policemen.' Mr Zanganeh said the gunmen, who hit up to four jewellery shops, had all escaped, but he was unsure with how much loot.

'They came team-by-team from different directions into the market,' Mr Zanganeh said. 'Because of security around the market and crowds of people they came on foot, after probably leaving their vehicles at a distance,' he added.

Al-Asri, with some 150 shops selling everything from jewellery to electronic goods, is the biggest market in Kirkuk.

Armed heists on jewellery shops have been on the rise in Iraq, most of them in Baghdad. Mr Zanganeh said this was a first for Kirkuk. Earlier this month, gunmen stormed three Baghdad jewelry stores in what appeared to be coordinated robberies and clashed with security forces, leaving seven people dead.

Iraq jewellery heists: 10 killed