UNHCR reports return of Christians to Iraq

GENEVA, Switzerland, Nov. 11 (UPI) — Over 300 members of the Iraqi Christian minority have returned to Mosul following a spate of violence targeted against their community, U.N. officials said.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said at a press conference in Geneva following a review of Christians displaced to villages surrounding Mosul that many in the community had begun to return to the region last week.

Violence against the Christian minority in Iraq escalated in October, though various communities began to issue accounts of attacks by Sunni militias as early as July.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had moved to control the violence by deploying some 35,000 Iraqi army and police to Mosul last month, restoring calm to many regions.

The Iraqi government in Baghdad also allocated as much as $800 to returning families, but several in the minority said they were afraid to register for the grant out of fear it would expose their religious identity and make them vulnerable to further attacks.

The United Nations had estimated nearly half of the Iraqi Christian population was displaced at the height of the violence.