UN alarmed at clashes, house burnings in disputed Iraqi city

Iraqi Kurdish students of the Salahaddin University wave the Kurdish flag as they demonstrate in Irbil, the capital of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region, on Monday, against the Iraqi premier. (AFP)
Updated 16 December 2017
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UN alarmed at clashes, house burnings in disputed Iraqi city

GENEVA: The UN voiced deep concern on Friday over the reported shelling and burning of homes in the Iraqi city of Tuz Khurmatu, warning of a “serious risk” that violence could escalate.
The UN rights office pointed to reports that residential areas of Tuz Khurmatu, in the Salahaddin governorate, had been shelled on Dec. 9 and 12, “causing casualties among civilians.”
“It is not clear who is carrying out the shelling, which is reported to be coming from the mountains overlooking the area,” agency spokeswoman Liz Throssell told reporters in Geneva.
Iraqi forces are working to determine where the shelling is coming from and who is responsible.
Tensions have been swelling in the disputed area of Tuz Khurmatu following September’s independence referendum in the neighboring Kurdistan Region.
The city’s population is a mix of Turkoman, Kurd and Arab communities, and Throssell warned that “there is a serious risk that given the ethnic and religious fault lines in the area, that violence could escalate and spread.”
In recent weeks, clashes have raged between the Kurdish security forces also known as the Peshmerga and Turkmen Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs).
“This fighting has to date resulted in an unconfirmed number of deaths in each group,” Throssell said.
She said staff from the UN rights office visited the city on Dec. 7 and again on the 14th to investigate reports of the burning of homes and looting of businesses.
They had seen “some 150 premises that had been burned or otherwise damaged,” she said, adding that they had also spoken with people who had fled violence in the city and were currently staying in Kirkuk and Irbil.
In October, a similar number of houses were reportedly looted and burned by Turkmen PMUs and civilians, she pointed out.
As many as 11 houses reportedly belonging to Kurdish families and officials had also been destroyed by explosives in the city, Throssell said.
“Thousands of residents, mainly of Kurdish origin left for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, apparently fearing repercussions, and to date many have not returned,” she warned.
The UN rights office called for an end to “all acts that threaten the fundamental rights of the Tuz Khurmatu population.”
“We also call on the Iraqi authorities to ensure that civilians there are protected and those responsible for human rights abuses brought to justice,” Throssell said.


Migrant charity files manslaughter complaint against cargo ship, Libya

Updated 1 min 34 sec ago
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Migrant charity files manslaughter complaint against cargo ship, Libya

  • The migrant rescue boat Open Arms docked in Spain on Saturday carrying the bodies of a woman and a four-year-old boy
  • Open Arms claimed the ship’s crew had seen the migrant dingy but had failed to provide help

PALMA DE MALLORCA: The charity Proactiva Open Arms has filed a complaint, including of involuntary manslaughter, with the Spanish police against a cargo ship for failing to help migrants adrift on a destroyed dinghy in the Mediterranean.
The captain of the charity’s rescue boat said on Saturday he also plans to file a separate suit against the Libyan lifeguard.
The migrant rescue boat Open Arms docked in Spain on Saturday carrying the bodies of a woman and a four-year-old boy as well as one woman who was found alive floating on the remains of a dinghy off the coast of Libya last week.
The boat took four days to arrive in the Spanish port of Palma after finding the migrants adrift about 80 miles (130 km)off Libya’s coast after being abandoned by the Libyan coast guard, the charity said.
“We have filed a complaint against the captain of the (merchant ship) Triades for failing to help and for involuntary manslaughter and we’ll also do it against the captain of the Libyan patrol,” Oscar Camps, the Open Arms captain and founder of the NGO, said at a news conference.
Open Arms claimed the ship’s crew had seen the migrant dingy but had failed to provide help. Reuters could not find a way to contact the captain of Triades, which flies a Panamanian flag. The ship is currently moored in the Libyan port of Misrata, where officials could not be reached for comment.
The Libyan lifeguard also left the three migrants to float amid the shattered remains of the raft after the two women and the boy had refused to board their patrol ship, the charity said.
Libya’s coast guard disputed the account on Tuesday but offered no explanation for how the three migrants came to be stranded on the remains of the dinghy.
The Spanish charity operates in the central Mediterranean, one of the deadliest areas of the sea and favored by people smugglers operating out of Libya.
Charity boats have been locked out of Italian ports, the closest European landing point, since Italy’s new government vowed to crack down on illegal immigration from Northern Africa.
Open Arms found itself at the center of the European immigrant crisis at the start of the month when it rescued 60 migrants off Libya and brought them to Barcelona in Spain after being refused docking in Italy and Malta.