Nov 13, 2016 12:57 AM

Rights group accuses Iraqi Kurds of destroying Arab homes

The Associated Press

BAGHDAD (AP) — The security forces of Iraq's regional Kurdish government have routinely destroyed Arab homes and even some whole villages in areas retaken from the Islamic State group over the past two years, according to a new report issued Sunday by Human Rights Watch.

The report says that between September 2014 and May 2016, Kurdish forces advancing against IS destroyed Arab homes in disputed areas of Kirkuk and Ninevah provinces, while Kurdish homes were left intact. It says the demolitions took place in disputed areas in northern Iraq which the Kurds want to incorporate into their autonomous region over the objections of the central government.

Sunni Arab politicians have previously accused the Kurds of seeking to recast the demographics of mixed areas in northern Iraq. The struggle is particularly intense in the oil-rich Kirkuk region.

"In village after village in Kirkuk and Ninevah, KRG security forces destroyed Arab homes — but not those belonging to Kurds — for no legitimate military purpose," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "KRG leaders' political goals don't justify demolishing homes illegally."

All sides fighting in the current battle for Iraq's second largest city, Mosul, have been accused of past human rights abuses, with the worst allegations focusing on IS.

Kurdish forces of have been accused of destroying Arab homes before, with a report last year by Amnesty International alleging that the peshmerga carried out the attacks in retaliation for what they said was Arab communities' support for IS.

Kurdish authorities say that they abide by human rights laws and have denied having any strategy to destroy homes. But they say some villages in which the population fought alongside IS have suffered extensive destruction because of the ferocity of the battles.

Kurdish officials could not be immediately reached for comment on the fresh allegations.

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