Iraqi Christians Flee Mosul Violence

Christian families in Mosul flee homes after militant campaign to displace them.

ByABC News
October 16, 2008, 9:10 AM

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 16, 2008 -- About 1,700 Iraqi Christian families have now fled their homes after a campaign to displace them in the city of Mosul started about two weeks ago.

Authorities said 11 Christians have been killed and at least five homes have been blown up since the terror began.

American military officials believe al Qaeda militants are behind the attacks.

One refugee, who was too afraid to give his name, told ABC News he fled nearly two weeks ago: "A good friend of mine was shot to death inside his own pharmacy, so we ran from our house early the next morning, taking our two infant children. My wife and I were weeping in sadness to leave our home."

"It is only 10 days and I miss every single brick of my house," he said.

Text massages, leaflets and e-mails were sent to Christian families, ordering them to leave their homes under penalty of death.

Shamuel Shlaimoon, a Christian official in Mosul from the Democratic Assyrian movement, told ABC News that of the 6,000 Christian families living in the city, "540 families have fled to Telkef, in northern Mosul province, 1,162 families have gone to Hamdanya, on the eastern outskirts of Mosul city and some have even fled as far as Baghdad."

"Not one Christian family has yet returned home," Shlaimoon said. "They won't even allow our own party officials to photograph them because they are afraid if they ever return they might be harmed."

According to a press release from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office, 1,000 police officers were sent to the area to protect Christian neighborhoods and churches, and to put an end to the persecution.

Aid organizations are also sending food, water and blankets to help displaced families.

U.S. Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, spokesman for Multi-National Forces in Iraq, characterized the oppression as a classic al Qaeda tactic: "This is routine work for al Qaeda in Iraq," he said.

However, a Sunni member of Iraq's parliament who represents a Mosul constituency disagrees.

Usama al Nujaifi, with the Iraqiya List, has accused Iraqi Kurds of carrying out the displacement campaign.