UN refugee agency says IS kills at least 12 civilians after capturing thousands fleeing villages in Kirkuk governorate
Islamic State fighters may have captured up to 3,000 fleeing Iraqi villagers on Thursday and subsequently killed 12 of them, the UN refugee agency UNHCR has said.
The report followed a statement on Thursday from the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights, which said about 1,900 civilians had been captured by an estimated 100-120 Islamic State fighters, who were using people as shields against attacks by Iraqi security forces. Tens of civilians had been executed, and six burnt, it said.
"UNHCR has received reports that ISIL captured on 4 August up to 3,000 IDPs [internally displaced people] from villages in Hawiga district in Kirkuk governorate trying to flee to Kirkuk city. Reportedly, 12 of the IDPs have been killed in captivity," the UNHCR report said.
The United States is leading a military coalition conducting air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, where the group seized broad swathes of territory in 2014. The fighting has forced 3.4 million Iraqis from their homes.
Islamic State's grip on some towns has been broken, but it still controls its de facto capitals of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.
Last month the UN appealed for $284m to prepare aid for an assault on Mosul, as well as up to $1.8bn to deal with the aftermath.
It has so far received nothing in response, according to the UN Financial Tracking Service.
UNHCR has begun building a site northeast of Mosul for 6,000 people and is preparing another northwest of the city for 15,000, a fraction of those expected to need shelter.
Tens of thousands who fled from the city of Fallujah have still not returned since its recapture from Islamic State in June. Three volunteers helping to clear Fallujah of rubble and explosives died while clearing a house on 1 August, UNHCR said.
"Although local authorities have suggested that returns to Fallujah could begin in September, the ministry of migration and displacement has stated that it may take another three months before conditions are conducive for large-scale returns," it said.
But Iraqi authorities reported 300,000 refugees had returned to Ramadi district, UNHCR said. Iraqi forces declared victory over the group in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, in December, but later called a halt to returns after dozens of civilians were killed by mines.