The world body fears nearly 3000 Iraqi civilians may have been held hostage by the terrorist group, DAESH, who were on the run for safety in the northern part of Iraq.
Some 12 of the hostaged civilians are feared killed by the attackers, said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in its latest report published on Thursday.
"UNHCR has received reports that DAESH captured on August 4 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.
Officials of the UN body for refugees in Geneva and Baghdad said Friday they were still trying to verify the information and wouldn’t comment on the source of the reports.
— ISO (@ISObserver) August 5, 2016
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 DAESH terrorists, who were using people as shields against attacks by Iraqi Security Forces. Tens of civilians had been executed, and six burnt.
DAESH is trying to stop the civilians from fleeing the territory they hold. It is using the civilians as human shields against the air strikes. The US-led coalition fighter jets have been carrying airstrikes on the DAESH-held areas in Iraq and Syria since 2014.
According to reports, some 3.4 million Iraqis have been displaced in Iraq by July 2016.
The terrorist group is notorious for taking civilians as captives to use them as human shields. The group had made thousands of women and children captive in 2014.
The coalition forces have driven out DAESH from their formerly strong hold areas as Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.
The UN agency for refugees is not sure whether thousands of displaced Iraqis from Falluja could return soon as it is facing financial problems and the areas are also not cleared from the mines. Some volunteers were killed while clearing the areas from mines recently.
"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.
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) June 10, 2014
But Iraqi authorities reported 300,000 displaced people had returned to Ramadi district, UNHCR said.
Iraqi forces declared victory over the jihadist group in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, in December, but later called a halt to returns after dozens of civilians were killed.