(UPI) – Thousands of Christians were chased out of Iraq by radical Muslims but some of them are returning to Kurdish-controlled areas in the north, Iraq ‘s designated ambassador to the Vatican said yesterday. Reached by telephone at his Baghdad office, Ambassador-designate Albert Yelda pleaded with Christians not to flee. “We are the descendants of the original residents of present-day Iraq ,” he said. Fewer than 1 million Christians live in Iraq today, a nation of about 25 million. Many were terrified of staying after five churches were bombed earlier this month. “This was the work of foreign terrorists,” Mr. Yelda said. ” Iraq ‘s Muslim leaders do not want us to leave. Christians enjoy their highest respect.” Mr. Yelda, who will take up his post in Rome as soon as the Vatican accredits him, acknowledged the fear that drove the Christians from their ancestral homes.