Iraqis gather during the funeral of one of six people killed by Iraqi troops the day before during a protest in the town of Fallujah, west of the Iraqi capital Baghdad on January 26, 2013. The deaths in the predominantly Sunni town were the first since protests began last month, and came as tens of thousands rallied in Sunni areas of the country, railing against alleged targeting of their minority by the Shiite-led authorities. AFP PHOTO/AZHAR SHALLAL (Photo credit should read AZHAR SHALLAL/AFP/Getty Images)

Violent clashes in a northern Iraqi town have so far killed 15 people as government helicopters rain fire on Sulaiman Pek, a local official told Reuters on Wednesday. 

Fighting between Iraqi security forces and insurgents there has also left 10 suspected militants and five soldiers dead, Shalal Abed told Reuters from Sulaiman Pek.

Abed, the mayor the nearby town of Tuz Khurmato, said clashes were ongoing, so the death toll could rise. 

The New York Times said the helicopters were targeting Sunni gunmen inside the town. 

The battle in Sulaiman Pek reflects growing unrest among Iraq's majority Sunnis, who have been holding large demonstrations against alleged discrimination on the part of the ruling Shiite government in recent months. 

The New York Times said Wednesday that the Sunni uprising has "now turned violent" and "represents a significant challenge to the rule of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki," a Shiite. 

A government raid on a Sunni encampment in Hawija on Tuesday sparked similar violence, according to Reuters, while also prompting the resignation of two Sunni parliamentarians, said The New York Times.

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