Christians fleeing Mosul after targeted killings

By Erica Goode and Suadad Al-Salhy

BAGHDAD: Hundreds of Christians are fleeing Mosul after a string of killings that appear to be singling out the minority group in the northern city, where many had sought refuge from persecution in other parts of Iraq.

Since late September, at least 11 and perhaps as many as 14 Christians have been killed in Mosul, according to government officials and humanitarian groups. The victims include a doctor, an engineer, two builders, two businessmen and a 15-year-old boy, who was gunned down in front of his home. In some cases, there have been two or three killings on the same day.

A pharmacist was killed Friday by a man who pretended to be an undercover police officer and asked for the pharmacist’s identification card, said Khisroo Koran, deputy governor of Nineveh Province, of which Mosul is the capital.

The attacks coincide with an angry dispute over the Iraqi Parliament’s decision to drop a provision of the provincial elections law that ensured political representation for Christians and other minorities, before passing the legislation on Sept. 24. To protest Parliament’s action, Christians held demonstrations in Nineveh Province – where about 250,000 Christians live, about 50,000 of them in Mosul – and in Baghdad.

At one demonstration in Nineveh, protestors held up signs demanding the creation of a 19th province governed by Christians that would be linked to the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the north, according to William Warda, an Iraqi journalist and chairman of the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, based in Baghdad.

Although the motivation for the sudden increase in violence in Mosul is not known, several Iraqi Christian leaders said Friday that it could be tied to the protests and to the demands for an autonomous province.

Koran said that flyers had appeared on the streets in Mosul threatening Christians and telling them to leave the city. He blamed insurgents and “nationalist extremists” for the killings.

More than 150 families have left Mosul over the last week for towns in the surrounding area like Barttilla, Tallkayf and Qaraqosh that are primarily Christian, according to provincial officials.

Jawdat Toma Yousef, who has an underwear stall in the market in central Mosul, said that he and his family left the city after his brother, who has a wholesale store, was killed on Saturday.

“Me and another brother closed our stalls about 12:15 that day, and then after that four guys came to the market and one of them shot my brother Hazzem and killed him in front of his son,” Yousef said.

He said that 18 members of his family are now living in a small rental house in Qaraqosh.

“We could not bring anything with us except our clothes and our money,” Yousef said. “We left Mosul immediately after we buried my brother’s body.”

Christians from all over Iraq have been emigrating in huge numbers, but of those who have remained in the country, many have fled to the Ninewa plain, which is dotted by ancient Assyrian-Chaldean villages that contain saints’ graves and monasteries that were built during the time of Mohammed.

Car bomb kills 13 in Baghdad
A car exploded in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Dora, killing 13 people and wounding 27, according to the police and hospital officials, The Associated Press reported.

The bomb hit the main market area of Abu Dshir, which is in a Shiite part of Dora, a Sunni-dominated neighborhood.

The U.S. military gave a lower toll, saying four civilians were killed and 14 wounded in the attack. Differing casualty tolls are common in Iraq.

Earlier in Dora, a roadside bomb hit a minibus, killing one passenger and wounding 12. The U.S. military said only that 10 civilians were wounded.

Dora is a former insurgent stronghold that has seen a sharp decline in violence over the past year after local Sunnis joined forces with the Americans against militants.

In Mosul, a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi police patrol killed 4 civilians and wounded 20 other people, the military said.

Although the motivation for the sudden increase in violence in Mosul is not known, several Iraqi Christian leaders said Friday that it could be tied to the protests and to the demands for an autonomous province.

Koran said that flyers had appeared on the streets in Mosul threatening Christians and telling them to leave the city. He blamed insurgents and “nationalist extremists” for the killings.

More than 150 families have left Mosul over the last week for towns in the surrounding area like Barttilla, Tallkayf and Qaraqosh that are primarily Christian, according to provincial officials.

Jawdat Toma Yousef, who has an underwear stall in the market in central Mosul, said that he and his family left the city after his brother, who has a wholesale store, was killed on Saturday.

“Me and another brother closed our stalls about 12:15 that day, and then after that four guys came to the market and one of them shot my brother Hazzem and killed him in front of his son,” Yousef said.

He said that 18 members of his family are now living in a small rental house in Qaraqosh.

“We could not bring anything with us except our clothes and our money,” Yousef said. “We left Mosul immediately after we buried my brother’s body.”

Christians from all over Iraq have been emigrating in huge numbers, but of those who have remained in the country, many have fled to the Ninewa plain, which is dotted by ancient Assyrian-Chaldean villages that contain saints’ graves and monasteries that were built during the time of Mohammed.

Car bomb kills 13 in Baghdad
A car exploded in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Dora, killing 13 people and wounding 27, according to the police and hospital officials, The Associated Press reported.

The bomb hit the main market area of Abu Dshir, which is in a Shiite part of Dora, a Sunni-dominated neighborhood.

The U.S. military gave a lower toll, saying four civilians were killed and 14 wounded in the attack. Differing casualty tolls are common in Iraq.

Earlier in Dora, a roadside bomb hit a minibus, killing one passenger and wounding 12. The U.S. military said only that 10 civilians were wounded.

Dora is a former insurgent stronghold that has seen a sharp decline in violence over the past year after local Sunnis joined forces with the Americans against militants.

In Mosul, a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi police patrol killed 4 civilians and wounded 20 other people, the military said.

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