Bodies of Christian children and their parents litter the chaotic streets of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, as violent Muslim extremists have seized a terrorized city Iraqi Christians once considered their last safe refuge.
“Very critical and even apocalyptic,” was an emailed description from Catholic Priest Najeeb Michaeel who signed off abruptly, saying armed extremists had surrounded the convent to which he had fled.
“Most of the inhabitants of the city have already abandoned their houses and fled into the villages,” wrote the Dominican friar. “Many thousands of armed men from the Islamic Groups of Da’ash have attacked the city of Mosul for the last two days. They have assassinated adults and children. The bodies have been left in the streets and in the houses by the hundreds, without pity.
“What we are living and what we have seen over the last two days is horrible and catastrophic. The priory of Mar Behnam and other churches fell into the hands of the rebels this morning and now they have come here and entered Qaraqosh five minutes ago.
“Pray for us. I’m sorry that I can’t continue. They are not far from our convent. Don’t reply. We are now surrounded and threatened with death.”
“The Iraqi government has lost control to al-Qaida-inspired insurgents,” reports Dan Murphy for the Christian Science Monitor, “a crushing defeat for not only Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's security policies but for Iraqi politics as a whole. The scale of the catastrophe, as troops loyal to Maliki flood north and troops controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government rush west and south, can't be overstated.”
“Mosul fell overnight,” reported Nina Shea of National Review. “Panic-stricken Christians, along with many others, are now fleeing en masse to the rural Nineveh plain, according to the Vatican publication Fides. The border crossings into Kurdistan, too, are jammed with the cars of the estimated 150,000 desperate escapees.
“A mass exodus is underway from Iraq's second largest city after its seizure by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an Iraq and Syria-based Sunni Muslim extremist group,” reports Christian Today. The extremists are known by the initials ISS.
“The population, particularly its Christian community, has much to fear,” writes Shea. “The ruthlessness of ISIS, an offshoot of al-Qaida, has been legendary. Its beheadings, crucifixions, and other atrocities against Christians and everyone else who fails to conform to its vision of a caliphate have been on full display earlier this year, in Syria.”
The BBC reports about 150,000 people have fled Mosul, population about 1.8 million.
“ISIS has been able to take military advantage of a political power vacuum as Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Maliki struggles to form a government after recent elections,” reported Christian Today. “ISIS wants to overthrow the Iraqi and Syrian Governments and establish a Sunni Muslim Caliphate in the Middle East.
It has been exercising informal control of Nineveh province, where Mosul is situated, for months. The Iraqi Parliament has declared a State of Emergency. The Prime Minister called for the Iraqi people to volunteer, and take up arms to defend the country. He also called on international organizations to support Iraq in maintaining peace, and on neighboring countries to protect their boundaries, and not let ‘terrorists’ enter Iraq.”
As the insurgents fought their way into Mosul, government troopsfled, wrote Christian Today. “According to sources on the ground in Mosul, army and police personnel took off their uniforms so as not to be identified.
“ISIS now controls the airport, taking its guns and some helicopters. Militants are said to be robbing and stealing in schools and banks; they have burned down several buildings and destroyed others.”
One Mosul citizen reported "No water, electricity or food in the houses now" and "It is dangerous to go out as there is random sniper shooting in the city."
Several sources in mainly Christian rural areas have confirmed that militants have entered their villages too. A local Christian reported that ISIS was in control of the predominantly Christian village of Qara Qosh where the local police had fled. There ISIS militants reportedly had entered and were looting the Mar Behnam Monastery.
Some 200 families, many Christian, were believed to be holed up in Mar Mattai Monastery. About 50 families an hour were said to be arriving in the predominantly Christian town of Al Qosh, 30 miles from Mosul. Others had fled as far as Dohuk, 50 miles from Mosul.
Most of the refugees escaped with only a few possessions. Many middle-class professionals reported being forced to leave expensive cars behind at extremists’ checkpoints and having to walk for many hours to safety.
"Mosul soon will be emptied of Christians," said a World Watch Monitor source. "This could be the last migration of Christians from Mosul. Christian families are terrified.
A Christian man remaining in Mosul told World Watch Monitor by phone: "I was able to make my wife and children leave Mosul, but now I am stuck in the house and can't move."
An elderly woman and her adult daughter reported they were still in their house in Mosul. They posted on the Internet: "God, please save us and Mosul" and added that only they and one other Christian family were left in their neighborhood.
Publication date: June 11, 2014