BAGHDAD :  Islamic State militants kidnapped 40 men from a town in Iraq’s northern province of Kirkuk on Thursday, dragging the men into cars before driving off, residents said.

Residents of the Sunni Muslim town of Hawija said by telephone they did not know why the men had been taken, from a district on the edge of the town. They added that Islamic State, which controls Hawija, had not faced any resistance from its inhabitants. Islamic State has seized hundreds of Iraqi and Syrian soldiers as well as members of other insurgent groups, journalists and civilians. Some have been sold for ransom and others have been killed.

The group launched a lightning advance through northern and central Iraq in June, declaring an Islamic caliphate. With the help of US air strikes, Iraq’s army and Kurdish forces have been able to push the fighters back from some areas.

The Ministry of Defence said on Thursday on state television Iraqi forces had killed three “leaders” of Islamic State in three separate attacks on Mosul and Tel Afar in the north.