conditions before 0900 GMT…..”Christian
families are on their way to Dohuk and Arbil” in Kurdistan….. “For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians.”
Mosul, Iraq. Officially certified to be Christian free as of today.
Incidentally, the same thing happened two decades ago in Kashmir. The message blaring from the mosques was stark: all minorities leave NOW (leave your women behind).
of Christians abandoned their homes and belongings to flee the Iraqi
city of Mosul on Friday following an ultimatum by jihadists who overran
the region last month and proclaimed a caliphate.
militants attempted to break government defences in strategic areas and
edge closer to Baghdad, Christians joined hundreds of thousands of
Shiite and other refugees into Kurdistan.
Their flight to the
safety of the neighbouring autonomous region coincided with the expected
homecoming of Iraq’s Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani, after 18 months
of treatment in Germany.
The Islamic State group running Mosul
had already demanded that those Christians still in the city convert,
pay a special tax or leave but messages blaring on mosques’ loudspeakers
appeared to spark an exodus.
An earlier statement by Mosul’s
new rulers had said there would be “nothing for them but the sword” if
Christians did not abide by those conditions before noon (0900 GMT) on
“Christian families are on their way to Dohuk and
Arbil” in Kurdistan, Chaldean patriarch Louis Sako, who heads Iraq’s
largest Christian community, told AFP. “For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians.”
Most Christians in the northwestern Nineveh province fled in terror
after jihadist-led militants enforcing an extreme version of sharia — or
Islamic law — launched an offensive on June 9.
But many of the
poorest families returned when the fighting stopped and IS started
administering the city. Sako put the number of Christians who were still
in Mosul on Thursday at 25,000.
The mass displacement was the
latest in six weeks of turmoil which the have forced more than 600,000
people from their homes, left thousands dead and brought Iraq to the
brink of collapse.
Talabani’s return to his native Kurdistan on
Saturday was likely to spark celebrations among supporters from his
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party.
He is widely celebrated as a
skilled negotiator, who enjoys good relations with both the United
States and Iran and has repeatedly mediated between Iraq’s fractious
politicians in recent years.
But some observers warned that
there was little the avuncular 80-year-old head of state could do to
ease spiralling ethno-sectarian violence and rhetoric and roll back the
Islamic State’s expansion.
“I really do think this is a
post-Talabani era. I’ve stuck my neck out there, but I haven’t heard any
Iraqis talking about him in any way being president,” said Toby Dodge,
director of the London School of Economics’ Middle East centre.
Federal forces collapsed, in some cases abandoning uniforms and weapons
in their retreat, when fighters under the command of IS leader Abu Bakr
al-Baghdadi launched their assault.
The army has since
regrouped, received intelligence, hardware and manpower from Washington,
Moscow and Shiite militias, but nonetheless struggled to regain lost
Security analysts have said Baghdad remains too big a
target but the militants have in recent days repeatedly attacked
targets that would expose the capital if captured.
night, a jihadist commando stormed the Speicher air base north of
ex-president Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, sparking a fierce
battle. “Last night, gunmen infiltrated the base. There were
snipers and suicide bombers among them, they managed to reach the
runway,” an intelligence officer who survived the attack told AFP.
He said the pilots managed to fly all but one of the base’s aircraft to
safety but a statement posted on jihadist Internet sites said many were
Many, including within his own Shia alliance that
comfortably won April elections, now see Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s
departure as essential to national reconciliation efforts.
Friday sermon delivered by one of his spokesmen in Karbala, the
Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani — Iraq’s most revered Shia
cleric — appeared to lean in the same direction. “The new
government should have broad national acceptance and be capable of
solving the crisis in the country and correcting the mistakes of the
past,” he said.
Parliamentary blocs have until Sunday to submit
nominees for the post of president, whose election is the next step in
what has been a protracted and acrimonious process to renew Iraq’s
Despite his unexpected return, there is little
expectation that Talabani, who has been president since 2005, will seek