The number of Christian families who have fled the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in the past week has reached 1,350, Nineveh provincial authorities said Oct. 15. Fourteen Christians have been slain in the past two weeks in the city. On Oct. 14, the Miskinta Church in the Old City district of Mosul was bombed, causing damage to the building but no casualties. Many of the displaced families have fled to predominantly Christian villages in the Nineveh Plain, northeast of the city. Church leaders accuse the Iraqi government of trying to cover up the extent of the crisis.
“For Christians in Mosul this is a time for tears, because from the beginning we did not get support, least of all from state officials,” Msgr. Shlemon Warduni, the auxiliary bishop of the Chaldean Patriarchate, told a Shi’ite delegation during a meeting on Tuesday at the Virgin Mary Church in eastern Baghdad. “The government acted only belatedly.”
As the government announced plans Oct. 14 to send officials to Mosul to assist the Christian community, the militant Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr dispatched some of his most senior aides from Najaf to Baghdad to meet with church leaders in an expression of solidarity. Sheikh Muhanned al-Gharrawi conveyed a message from his leader: “We will not hesitate to turn into human shields for our Christian brothers if need be.”
The Kurdistan Regional Government Oct. 15 condemned the attacks on Christians, and denied claims from some Christian leaders that it was behind the violence in a campaign to drive non-Kurds out of the region. Meanwhile in Baghdad, Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Karim Khalaf said there was no evidence to suggest al-Qaeda in Iraq was behind the attacks either.
The US military announced Oct. 15 that coalition forces had recently killed al-Qaeda in Iraq’s senior leader in northern Iraq. Abu Qaswarah AKA Abu Sara was killed during an operation in Mosul on Oct. 5, the military said. The Moroccan native is said to have been second in command to al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri. (UPI, Oct. 16; NYT, CNN, Oct. 15)