Armed forces fighting Islamic State (IS) near Mosul “looted, damaged and destroyed homes” belonging to displaced Iraqis, including Christians, Human Rights Watch said this week.

The New York-based agency used satellite imagery and took witness statements, and concluded that looting and destruction took place in the weeks after IS militants had been chased out of locations including the Christian-majority city of Qaraqosh.

It noted that active in the region are the mainly Shia Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF or Hashd al-Sha’abi) that were formed largely to combat ISIS, and are under the direct command of Prime Minister al-Abadi. Military personnel in the area and residents interviewed told the agency that present in Qaraqosh were the Iraqi military’s 9th Division, local and federal police, and the small and mainly Christian Nineveh Plain Protection Units.

The agency said it was unable to identify the forces responsible for these abuses, and urged the Iraqi authorities and the UN Human Rights Council to investigate their findings – which they say may amount to war crimes – and hold those responsible to account.

Hussein Al-Alak, editor of the Iraq Solidarity blog, noted that identifying culprits would be complicated by the easy availability of police and army uniforms from street markets.