* Five people shot dead in town near Kirkuk
* Sunni insurgents have clashed in area in recent months
* Iraq violence at its highest since 2006-7
KIRKUK, Iraq, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Bombings and shootings killed at least 14 people in northern Iraq on Friday, police said, the latest in what has become the fiercest spate of violence in the country in years.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the attacks, but Sunni Islamist militants including al Qaeda have been regaining ground in Iraq, seeking to undermine the Shi'ite-led government.
Two roadside bombs went off in a yard used for selling cattle in the northern disputed town of Tuz Khurmato, 170 km (100 miles) north of Baghdad, killing nine people and wounding 24, police and medics said.
In the northern town of Hawija, 210 km north of the capital, militants stormed two adjacent houses, shot dead five members of the family that owned them and then bombed the buildings before escaping, police said.
Hawija, near the city of Kirkuk, has seen fighting between Sunni insurgent groups in recent months as al Qaeda's Iraqi wing - which merged with its Syrian counterpart this year - seeks to subjugate other groups and cement its control.
Local officials in Kirkuk believe the Hawija attack was part of that conflict.
Iraqi security services are expecting more attacks in the next few days ahead of the Shi'ite holy day of Arbaeen next week.
On Thursday, suicide bombings in Iraq killed at least 36 people in attacks targeting Shi'ite pilgrims. The growing violence has raised fears of a return to the bloodshed of 2006-7, when tens of thousands of people died. (Reporting by Mustafa Mahmoud in Kirkuk and Ghazwan Hassan in Tikrit; Writing by Suadad al-Salhy; Editing by Alexander Dziadosz and Sonya Hepinstall)