Violence against Christians in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul has reached a five-year high:
Iraq deployed around 1,000 police in Christian areas of Mosul on Sunday as thousands of members of the minority group fled the worst violence against them in five years.
“Two (national police) brigades were sent to Christian areas in Mosul and churches were surrounded and put under tight security,” interior ministry spokesman Abdul-Karim Khalaf told AFP.
He said the reinforcements had been deployed from midnight in the restive northern city, considered by US and Iraqi commanders as the last urban stronghold of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Khalaf added that two investigation teams, one security and the other criminal, had also been deployed to probe a spate of attacks on Christians in Mosul since September 28, in which at least 11 people have been killed.
An AFP correspondent said police had set up checkpoints at churches in the city’s four heavily Christian areas and were patrolling the streets on foot.
Nearly 1,000 Christian families have fled their homes in the city since Friday, taking shelter on the northern and eastern fringes of Nineveh province, according to provincial governor Duraid Kashmula.
He said the violence was the worst against Christians in five years.
“(It) is the fiercest campaign against Christians since 2003,” Kashmula told AFP on Saturday. “Among those killed over the past 11 days were a doctor, an engineer and a handicapped person.”
At least three homes of Christians were blown up by unidentified attackers on Saturday, security officials said.
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The flight of Christians from Mosul came as Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako last week called on the US military as well as Prime Minister Maliki’s government to protect Christians and other minorities in the face of a rash of deadly attacks.
In an interview with AFP, Sako called on US forces to do more to protect Christians and other minorities.
“We are the target of a campaign of liquidation, a campaign of violence. The objective is political,” Sako said.
Since the US-led invasion of 2003 more than 200 Christians had been killed and a string of churches attacked, with the violence intensifying in recent weeks, particularly in the north, he added.
There were around 800,000 Christians in Iraq at the time of the US-led invasion, a number that has since shrunk by around a third as the faithful have fled the country, the archbishop said.
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