By Aaron J. Leichman
A Christian shopkeeper in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul was gunned down Wednesday as he was heading to work, according to a local official.
“Unknown armed men driving an unmarked car killed Sabah Gurgis while he was onÂ his way to work this morning,” Police Major Khalid Mahmud told Agence France-Presse shortly after the shooting.
“One of the men opened fire on him before escaping,” Mahmud added.
According to reports, Gurgis was the 55-year-old owner of an eye-glass store nearby his home, the married father of at least one child, and a member of the Chaldean Catholic community, which make up most of Iraqâ€™s small Christian minority.
His death comes less than three weeks after protests in Baghdad and Mosul drew hundreds of Christians who accused the government and security forces of inaction.
The protests were in organized in response to last month’s spike in Christian deaths. Over the course of just ten days, at least ten Christians last month were killed in and around Mosul.
The string of murders, which sends the message to Christians that they can be killed at anytime and anywhere, sparked a mass exodus of members of the Christian community in Mosul. According to a United Nations report, more than 680 Christian families, or over 4,000 people, fled Mosul between February 20 and 27.
Estimates place the number of Christians living in Mosul less than ten years ago at more than 100,000. Today, there are reportedly 150 to 300 families, or about 750 to 1,500 believers, in the formerly Christian stronghold.
While Iraqi Christians say they don’t know exactly why they were the target of last month’s escalated violence, the shootings were believed to have been purposely timed ahead of the March 7 elections to cause political instability.
The victims of last monthâ€™s shootings included several Christian shop owners, college students, as well as an entire family of five.