Gunmen kill Iraqi Christian outside factory

8561.jpg(AFP) –

MOSUL, Iraq — The brother of a soft drinks factory manager was shot dead by gunmen outside the restive northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Sunday, police said.

It was unclear if Ala Bashir, a 30-year-old Christian, was killed because of his faith. Thousands of Christians fled Mosul last year because of targeted violence in the city.

In Sunday’s incident, gunmen approached the factory, half-way between Mosul and the predominantly Christian town of Talkeef, in four cars — two BMWs and two Opels — according to a police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity.

They beat the factory’s guard and demanded to see the facility’s boss but when his brother Ala Bashir appeared they shot him on the spot and fled.

According to Iraq’s human rights ministry, around half of Mosul’s Christian community, some 2,275 families, abandoned their homes and jobs in October to take shelter in Christian villages.

Since the US-led invasion of 2003, hundreds of Iraqi Christians have been killed across Iraq and a string of churches attacked.

Most recently, four Christians were killed and 32 other people were injured in seven attacks on churches in Baghdad and Mosul over a 48-hour period earlier this month.

Around 800,000 Christians lived in Iraq at the time of the invasion, but the number has since shrunk by around a third or more as members of the minority community have fled the country, according to Christian leaders