ERBIL, Iraq – Iraqi Kurdish forces are deliberately destroying Arab villages under their control, according to an Amnesty International report released Wednesday. The human rights group said these actions could amount to war crimes.
Kurdish forces, the report says, bulldozed, blew up and burned down thousands of homes in Arab villages recaptured from the Islamic State group.
"The forced displacement of civilians and the deliberate destruction of homes and property without military justification may amount to war crimes," said Donatella Rovera of Amnesty International in a statement.
Rovera, who carried out the field research for the report, said the group also found that Arab civilians were barred from returning to their villages by Kurdish forces. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq has said civilians are being prevented from returning to their homes for their own safety, citing the dangers of explosive booby-traps and homemade bombs that IS often leaves behind when it retreats.
"By barring the displaced from returning to their villages and destroying their homes KRG forces are further exacerbating their suffering," Rovera said in a statement.
In the fight against IS, the United States has closely supported Iraq's Kurdish forces also known as the Peshmerga with airstrikes, intelligence sharing and training programs.
The Peshmerga carried out the attacks in retaliation for alleged support for IS within Arab communities, the report said. The villages detailed were previously under Arab rule, but came under Kurdish control when Peshmerga fighters pushed back IS last year.
IS still control large parts of Iraq after sweeping into the country in the summer of 2014 and overrunning Iraq's second largest city of Mosul in the north. In August 2014 the group advanced on Erbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdish region, prompting U.S.-led airstrikes that have supported the Kurdish offensive against IS.