File - Iraqi forces, supported by members of the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation), advance in al-Hadar desert on June 18, 2023, as they search for remnants of the Islamic State (IS) group. AFP
Sunday's military operation in Kirkuk province, north of the Iraqi capital, targeted "three figures of the terrorist group Daesh in the Turkelan region," the security forces said in a statement.
After the suspected IS members were identified, Iraqi troops approached and a clash erupted, added the statement late Sunday.
The militants "were surrounded and killed, the explosive belts they were wearing were detonated", it said.
IS members seized swathes of Iraq and neighboring Syria in 2014, declaring a "caliphate" which they ruled with brutality before their defeat in late 2017 by Iraqi forces backed by a US-led military coalition.
Despite the setbacks, the extremist group can still call on an underground network of fighters to carry out attacks on both sides of the porous border, the United Nations says.
On June 11, three Iraqi soldiers were killed and four others wounded in a pre-dawn attack west of Kirkuk blamed on IS.
In April, the international coalition set up to fight the Sunni Muslim extremists said there had been a reduction in IS attacks in both Iraq and Syria.
In March, a senior Iraqi military official said IS had between 400 and 500 active fighters in the Shia-majority country.