Hundreds of families have been driven out of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk in apparent retaliation for a recent attack by the Islamic State group, Amnesty International said on Monday.
Authorities in the Kurdish-controlled city demolished the homes of hundreds of Arab residents and ordered them to leave Kirkuk in the wake of the attack on October 21, the London-based rights group said.
Those displaced include an estimated 250 families who had fled to Kirkuk, which lies in an oil-rich area around 240 kilometres north of Baghdad, from other areas in Iraq.
An additional 190 families were said to have been displaced from nearby villages by Kurdish Peshmerga and Asayesh forces.
Amnesty said those forced from their homes were told to return to their places of origin or moved to camps, after being suspected of helping IS coordinate its attack.
Three days of clashes left at least 46 people dead, mostly members of the security forces.
The governor of Kirkuk province, Najmeddin Karim, told AFP at least 81 jihadists were killed while several others were detained.
Amnesty’s report quoted residents as saying homes were demolished on October 25, a day after Karim announced the attack was over.
Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s deputy director for research in Beirut, said destroying homes without military necessity amounts to “a war crime”.
“Forcibly evicting and displacing Sunni Arab residents of Kirkuk is unlawful and cruel.
“Kurdish authorities must immediately put an end to unlawful destruction of civilian property and forced displacement,” Maalouf said.
The brazen raid on Kirkuk appeared to be an attempt by IS to divert attention from Mosul, where a major offensive is under way to retake the city from the jihadists.