News / Middle East

UN Agency Reports 'Exodus' of Iraqi Christians

This 55-year-old Christian found refuge at a family member's home in the Kurdistan region after fleeing Baghdad following the attacks on the Church of Our Lady Of Salvation.
This 55-year-old Christian found refuge at a family member's home in the Kurdistan region after fleeing Baghdad following the attacks on the Church of Our Lady Of Salvation.

The U.N. refugee agency says there has been what it calls an "exodus" of Iraqi Christians from Baghdad and Mosul since a deadly October attack on a Christian church in the capital and subsequent attacks.

Agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming says about 1,000 families from the two cities have arrived in the Kurdistan region and Nineveh since early November.  In a Friday statement,  Fleming said the agency has heard some accounts of people fleeing their homes after receiving threats.

She also said her agency's offices in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon have reported an increase in the arrivals of Iraqi Christians.

Armed al-Qaida militants raided Baghdad's Our Lady of Salvation church on October 31 and took more than 100 worshippers hostage.  Iraqi forces stormed the building and ended the siege.  Authorities say 46 worshippers were among those killed during the incident.

As many as 1.2 million Christians lived in Iraq before the 2003 invasion to oust leader Saddam Hussein.   However, many have since fled abroad in the wake of stepped-up violence by al-Qaida-linked Muslim insurgents.

The refugee agency also expressed "dismay" at what it says is a continued forced repatriation of Iraqis by European countries.  In a news briefing in Geneva, Fleming said the agency is again calling on European countries to refrain from deporting Iraqis who are from particularly dangerous parts of Iraq.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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