Dhaka: 6:53 AM, Wed, 20 Feb, 2019

100,000 flee Kirkuk since Iraqi army takeover

Mukul : risingbd.com
Publish on: 2017-10-20 9:47:58 AM     ||     Updated: 2017-10-20 5:42:25 PM

International Desk: Fauziah Hakim Ahmad sits on a thin brown blanket laid out across the dusty floor of an abandoned housing project on the outskirts of Erbil.

"Where should we go now?" the black-clad, 67-year-old asks. "They came to our homes and burned things."

Ahmad is one of the tens of thousands of people who fled Kirkuk earlier this week fearing persecution since Iraqi armed forces retook the oil-region region following a referendum on Kurdish secession that was rejected by the federal government of Iraq in Baghdad.

"A lot happened to us - we don't own our own house now, we don't even know if we have a house or our things," she said, recalling a lifetime of hardship.

"Since I was a child, I've never seen happiness. It's war after war."

In a rapid advance on Monday and Tuesday, central government troops and allied militias swept into Kirkuk, a multi-ethnic city of more than one million people and the hub of a major oil-producing area, largely unopposed after Kurdish Peshmerga forces withdrew.

The advancing units also removed Peshmerga fighters from formerly Kurdish-held areas of Nineveh and Diyala provinces.

Nawzad Hadi, governor of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), told reporters on Thursday that around 18,000 families from Kirkuk and the town of Tuz Khurmatu to the southeast had taken refuge in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah, inside KRG territory.

A Hadi aide told a news agency the total number of displaced people was about 100,000. The figure could not be independently verified, and many Kurdish neighbourhoods in Kirkuk city appeared to be operating normally, an agency reported.

Hemin Hawrami, a senior assistant to KRG President Masoud Barzani, said in a post on Twitter that 57,000 families from Kirkuk were in need of "immediate assistance" after arriving in Erbil, Sulaimaniyah and Duhok provinces.

He said that people had fled "violence, looting and crimes" inflicted by the Popular Mobilisation Force (PMF), paramilitary units largely made up of Iran-trained Shia militias.

A mayor from the town of Khanaqin, Mohammed Mulla Hassan, said a Kurdish man was killed and six wounded by Iraqi security forces while protesting at the army's takeover there.

Kurdish troops had left Khanaqin, near the border with Iran, on Tuesday to avoid clashing with advancing Iraqi forces.

Separately, the United Nations voiced concern at reports that civilians, mainly Kurds, were being driven out of parts of northern Iraq retaken by Iraqi forces and their houses and businesses looted and destroyed.

Source: Agencies

risingbd/Oct 20, 2017/Mukul