Iraqi Christians flee killings

_45100690_-971.jpg Christians have lived in Mosul for centuries
Hundreds of Iraqi Christians have reportedly fled the northern Iraqi city of Mosul over the past week, following a wave of killings aimed against them.

Local officials say a dozen Christians have been killed in the past two weeks, triggering hundreds of fearful families to take refuge in outlying villages.

The provincial governor has accused extremist al-Qaeda elements of staging a campaign against Christians.

He has called on the Iraqi government and US forces to help.

Mosul, like other major Iraqi cities, has witnessed big security operations aimed at displacing insurgents and imposing law and order.

Our correspondent in Baghdad, Jim Muir, says the operations have improved security in cities like Baghdad and Basra, but the situation in Mosul – Iraq’s third-largest city – seems to be worsening.

Killing campaign

He says Mosul’s Christians, whose ancestors have lived there for centuries, have never been spared from violence and extortion. Their archbishop was abducted and murdered in March.

But now, they seem to be falling prey to a campaign of killings aimed specifically at them, our correspondent adds.

The provincial governor says about 1,000 families have fled the city to hide in villages to the north and east of the city.

The governor and church leaders have called on the Iraqi government, and US forces, to do more to bolster security in Mosul, and to help protect Christians.

There were estimated to be around 800,000 Christians in Iraq in 2003, when coalition forces invaded.

Over the years, there were waves of attacks on them, and many churches were bombed, both in Mosul and Baghdad. At least one-third of the community is believed to have fled abroad