Iraqi forces attacked Kurdish districts after clashes: Amnesty

Fighters from the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary alliance ride an infantry-fighting vehicle in Kirkuk province on October 6, 2017 after clashes with the Islamic State group

Iraqi forces pillaged and torched Kurdish districts in a multi-ethnic town near Kirkuk after recent clashes with Kurdish fighters, Amnesty International said Tuesday.

“Hundreds of properties were looted, set on fire and destroyed in what appears to be a targeted attack on predominantly Kurdish areas” of Tuz Khurmatu after fighting on October 16, the rights group said in a report.

“Residents who are still in the city, as well as others who fled and then attempted to return, described how Iraqi government forces, as well as members of the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), Turkmen fighters and Turkmen civilians, engaged in rampant arson, looting and demolition of civilian homes,” the group said.

Locals also said at least 11 civilians were killed in “indiscriminate attacks” as heavy weaponry was used in densely-populated areas of the city.

“Civilians interviewed by Amnesty International were unable to determine whether the attacks they experienced were attributable to Kurdish or Iraqi government forces,” the UK-based group said.

“However, in several of the cases documented by Amnesty International, the indiscriminate fire was launched into crowds of Kurdish residents fleeing the city.”

Tuz Khurmatu, a city of 100,000 that has seen outbursts of communal tensions, was under the joint control of Kurdish forces and PMU paramilitary forces, also known as the Hashed al-Shaabi, which report to Baghdad.

But Kurdish forces were ousted from the town as government forces staged a lightning operation that saw them seize back disputed Kirkuk region following a controversial Kurdish vote for independence.

The United Nations estimates that some 35,000 people have fled Tuz Khurmatu, 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad, since the fighting erupted on October 16.

“Within hours the lives of countless men, women and children were devastated in Tuz Khurmatu. Thousands have lost their homes, shops and everything they owned,” said Lynn Maalouf, Director of Research for the Middle East at Amnesty International.

She urged Iraqi authorities to make good on pledges to clamp down on attacks against civilians and “promptly initiate impartial investigations into these violations”.

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