Iraq Police To Protect Christians In Mosul; Thousands Flee Violence

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife with BosNewsLife Middle East Service

BAGHDAD, IRAQ (BosNewsLife) -- Some 1,000 police began deploying in Christian areas of Iraq's northern city of Mosul Monday, October 13, after thousands of Christians fled the worst violence against them in five years, BosNewsLife learned.

The action came as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered an immediate investigation into the murders of about a dozen Christians in the restive northern city in recent days, and pledged to take additional security meassures to protect the threatened minority.

"We will take immediate action to resolve the problems and difficulties faced by Christians in Mosul," Maliki said in a statement released by his office after a crisis meeting with two Christian lawmakers.

Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Abdul Karim Khalaf told reporters the government was sending more police into Christian neighborhoods and establishing more checkpoints and patrols near churches. Witnesses said police have set up checkpoints at churches in the city's four largely Christian areas and are patrolling the streets on foot.


It came after the Governor Duraid Mohammed Kashmoula of Nineveh province, which includes Mosul, said some 3,000 Christians, most of them families, fled the city to escape threats and attacks by extremists.

"(It) is the fiercest campaign against Christians since 2003," Kashmula told Agence France Presse (AFP) over the weekend. "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, October 11,.security officials said.

In an interview Sunday, October 12, with Al-Sharqiya television, Iraqi Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly condemned the killings that have occurred recently in Mosul "especially our sons the Christians." "We the sons of Iraq, should be of one heart, one population and one homeland for the sake of the prosperity of our country," he said in a statement published from Rome.

Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, said the plight of Mosul Christians indicated "a real defect" in the security operation there and urged the government to take steps immediately to correct the problems. He said Christians in the northern city "have the right to be protected from those criminals and murderers."


Mosul military command spokesman Khalid Abdul-Satar said he did not know who was behind the violence but pledged to protect the Christian community. However police was facing difficulties Monday, October 13, in the aftermath of new suicide attacks in Mosul, which reportedly killed at least six people and injured dozens.

The first attack in Mosul involved a suicide car bomber attacking an American petrol. There were no American casualties, but five Iraqis were killed, including three young boys, the US military said in a statement. The explosion also killed the bomber. Another suicide car bomber targeted Iraqi police in Mosul, 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, inuring 25 people, the US military said.

Also on Sunday, October 12, two Iraqi soldiers were killed by snipers in separate attacks in Baghdad's capital's Yarmouk district, according to police investigators. Elsewhere in Baghdad, a parked car bomb exploded in a commercial street in the Bayaa district, reportedly killing seven people and wounding nine others.

In Baghdad too, Christians have been fleeing the violence. Iraq hosted some 750,000-800,000 Christians five years ago but many, if not most of them, are believed to have fled to neighboring countries.


US officials are concerned that renewed violence may rise in the run-up to provincial elections, which are expected by the end of January, The Associated Press (AP) news agency reported.

Voters will select ruling councils in most of the country's 18 provinces, although no date for the election has been set, yet.

On Sunday, October 12, the spokesman for the election commission, Qassim al-Aboudi, told reporters that a total of 440 provincial seats would be contested, with 57 of them in Baghdad. About 20,000 people have been trained as election monitors, he was quoted as saying.

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