Iraqi Christians Flee as Jihadist Group Captures Iraq’s Second Largest City
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) Takes Control of Mosul
06/11/2014 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has taken control of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The extremist group has been among the most violent fighting in Syria against the regime of Bashar al-Assad over the past three years, and now has once again attacked important areas in Iraq, bringing new threats to the already struggling Iraqi church.
“What we are living and what we have seen over the last two days is horrible and catastrophic. The priory of Mar Behnam and other churches fell into the hands of the rebels this morning. . . and now they have come here and entered Qaraqosh five minutes ago, and we are now surrounded and threatened with death . . . . pray for us,” Fr. Najeeb Michaeel, a Dominican priest wrote from Mosul on Tuesday.
In the brutal and overwhelming attack, ISIS took control of much of the city including the provincial government headquarters. Security forces are reported to have fled with very little resistance. “When the battle got tough in the city of Mosul, the troops dropped their weapons and abandoned their posts, making it an easy prey for the terrorists,” Osama Nujaifi, speaker of the parliament told a televised news conference in Baghdad.
“Many thousands of armed men from the Islamic Groups of Da’ash [another name for ISIS] have attacked the city of Mosul for the last two days. They have assassinated adults and children. The bodies have been left in the streets and in the houses by the hundreds, without pity. The regular forces and the army have also fled the city, along with the governor,” Fr. Najeeb continued.
“Sadly there is a great lawlessness in the area due to a very weak and frail government unable to protect its people and especially the Christians who are minorities in Iraq and unable to protect themselves,” Joseph Kassab, president of Iraqi Christians Advocacy and Empowerment Institute, told ICC. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared a state of emergency, imposed a curfew, and has issued a call to arm citizen irregular forces, hinting at the desperation felt by the Iraqi government, according to CS Monitor.
ISIS controls the majority of a vast swath of land, stretching from Aleppo, in western Syria now to Mosul in northern Iraq, and Fallujah in central Iraq. It is believed to have at least 10,000 fighters, including many of the foreign jihadists who have joined the war in Syria. While ISIS has been active in fighting against Assad, they have also made efforts to establish a state under their control. ISIS “quickly asserted control over the province of Raqqah and late last year declared the city of Raqqah the capital of its state,” reported Liz Sly. They have implemented a radical form of Islamic law in the areas under their control. Originally launched as an Al-Qaeda offshoot, infighting among the terrorist groups led to Al-Qaeda distancing themselves from ISIS due to their extreme acts.
Iraq’s persecuted and shrinking church has gone from some 1.5 million to an estimated 200,000-400,000 thousand over the past decade. Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh plains are home to many Christians and religious minorities, Diya Butros, head of the Independent Human Rights Commission in the Kurdistan region told ICC. With tens of thousands of Christians and millions of Iraqis now facing the threat of a jihadist group seeking to impose it’s radical ideology by force, the international community must determine how they will act. The threat posed by ISIS raises the question, as Nina Shea asks, if the cleansing of Iraq’s Christians is reaching its end game.
The capture of Mosul threatens to further destabilize the region, and the Iraqi military seems largely unprepared to deal with these threats. “Having these terrorist groups control a city in the heart of Iraq threatens not only Iraq but the entire region,” speaker Nujaifi said. In capturing Mosul, ISIS has seized weapons, Humvees, trucks, and potentially helicopters as well. These weapons and other resources greatly enhance the danger that ISIS poses to the region.
Todd Daniels, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “We are gravely concerned by the attack on Mosul, Iraq and the danger this represents for the Iraqi Christian community. In a land that has already witnessed more than a million Christians leave over the past decade, we may see the extinction of the entire community. The Iraqi government and the international community must act quickly and decisively to address the threat posed by ISIS and to protect the most vulnerable from additional violence.”
For interviews, contact Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East: RM-ME@persecution.org
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