Amid Wave of Violence, Iraqi Christians Fleeing Mosul

Iraqi Christians are fleeing the northern city of Mosul, leaving behind houses and personal belongings amid a new wave of violence in the city.

Mosul, Iraq's second largest city has traditionally been a major center of Christianity in Iraq. But in the past few weeks there has been a predetermined wave of violence directed specifically at Christian minorities there.

Church sources say at least 10 Christians have been killed in the past few days with families receiving written and verbal threats either to leave or bear the consequences.

Church reports say some 500 families have fled the city to the string of Christian villages in the eastern and northern outskirts of Mosul.

These villages are relatively quieter but the influx has already strained their meager resources.

Many families have nowhere to go as schools and other public buildings in these villages are already crammed with refugees.

Sami al-Maleh, a member of a political faction grouping various Christian denominations says Christians in Mosul now receive daily threats, "with statements handed out in the city alleys and streets demanding that they leave the city. We do not know who is behind these threats but ask the provincial authorities to bring the criminals to justice."

Mosul is now Iraq's most restive city and a major stronghold of forces opposing U.S. occupation and the Iraqi government. Some of these groups have allied themselves with al-Qaeda.

The exodus began following the murder of several Christians and the closing of churches some of which date back to the early centuries of Christianity.

The fleeing families live in horrific conditions. Many of them, fearing for their lives, had even to leave personal belongings like shoes and clothes behind.

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