CNN and Islam in Action | Oct. 11, 2008
At least 900 Christian families have fled Mosul in the past week, terrified by a series of killings and threats by Muslim extremists ordering them to convert to Islam or face possible death, officials said Saturday.
The attacks may have been prompted by Christian demonstrations ahead of provincial elections, which are to be held by the end of January, the deputy governor of Nineveh province said.
Deputy Gov. Khasro Goran said 13 Christians have been slain in the past two weeks inMosul, about 260 miles (420 kilometers) north of Baghdad. Fleeing Christians have sought refuge in monasteries and churches and with family members in other towns, an Interior Ministry official said.
The attacks began after hundreds of Christians took to the streets in Mosul and surrounding villages and towns, seeking greater representation on provincial councils, whose members will be chosen in the local elections.
Duraid Mohammed Kashmoula, Nineveh’s governor, told The Associated Press that the exodus was “a major displacement.”
“Of course, al Qaeda elements are behind this campaign against Christians,” Kashmoula told AP.
The Interior Ministry official said the homes of three families were destroyed with explosives Saturday after the occupants left. No injuries were reported.
A week ago, leaflets were distributed in several predominantly Christian neighborhoods, threatening families to “either convert to Islam or pay the jizyah or leave the city or face death,” said the Interior Ministry official.
Historically, jizya is a tax paid by non-Muslims in exchange for protection.
Goran said that a few days after the leaflets were passed out, gunmen set up checkpoints in parts of Mosul, stopping vehicles to inspect identification papers, searching for Christian names or other signs of religious affiliation. Many of the Christians killed were targeted in this way, he said.
Bashir Azoz, 45, told AP he fled his Mosul home after gunmen warned a neighbor to leave or be killed.
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