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Kurds protest against Iraqi 'invaders' as thousands flee Kirkuk

KRG officials claim 100,000 Kurds fled to Suleimaniya and Erbil after Monday's takeover by Iraqi forces
Kurds marched against Iraqi-backed militias who had taken over the city (Screengrab)

Kurds marched against the presence of Iraqi forces in Kirkuk as thousands of others fled their homes fearing further unrest following the takeover by the central government in Baghdad. 

Images on social media showed crowds marching on the streets of Kirkuk on Wednesday evening. Many can be seen chanting and describing the Iraqi forces as "invaders". 

Some had also carried Kurdish flags and climbed on top of vehicles that belonged to Iraqi Shia fighting groups that now control the city. 

Meanwhile, dozens of Iraqis had also taken to the streets to show their support of the takeover with some blocking traffic and waving Iraqi flags.

Iraq's supreme court on Thursday ordered the arrest of the Kurdistan Regional Government's vice president, Kosrat Rasul, for allegedly saying the Iraqi troops in Kirkuk were "occupying forces".

The Kurdish government reported thousands of Kurds had fled Kirkuk fearing retribution and further unrest in the multi-ethnic city. 

Kurdish officials said 100,000 people had fled after the violence began on Monday. 

Nawzad Hadi, the governor of Erbil, told reporters that about 18,000 families had taken shelter in the cities of Erbil and Sulaimaniya. 

The United Nations on Thursday expressed concern at reports of forced displacment, and the looting and destruction of their houses and businesses.

Iraqi forces accused of burning Kurdish homes in Kirkuk
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"The UN urges the government of Iraq to take every action to halt any violations and ensure that all civilians are protected and that the perpetrators of acts of violence, intimidation and forced displacement of civilians be brought to justice," the assistance mission for Iraq said in a statement.

Thousands of other non-Kurdish Iraqis displaced from the city in previous months were also now returning, the UN said in an earlier statement. 

"Authorities have confirmed that the majority of displaced families are already returning to their homes," said Lise Grande, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Iraq.

"We call on all parties to do everything possible to shield and protect all civilians impacted by the current situation." 

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