The United Nations refugee agency says it is helping thousands of Iraqi Christians seeking refuge in northern Iraq and Syria.

A spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Friday most of the Christians who have fled persecution in Mosul in the past two weeks have settled in villages elsewhere in Ninewa province.  But the official, Ron Redmond, speaking in Geneva, added that about 400 others have crossed into Syria.

The spokesman said it is not clear who is behind the violence that has forced some 13,000 people, half of Mosul's Christian population, to leave the city.

Several Christians have been killed, while many others have received death threats. 

Violence has been down throughout the country in recent months, but U.S. and other officials have warned it could rise as Iraq prepares for elections early next year.

Also Friday, the U.S. military said coalition forces have detained eight suspected insurgents during two days of operations in central Iraq.

The military says coalition troops seized three suspects today in a raid on an al-Qaida in Iraq car bombing network outside Fallujah. It says at least one of the men is a suspected car bomb facilitator with ties to other militants in the region.

A military statement says coalition troops detained three other people in a separate operation in the same area.  It says its forces seized two suspects in a similar operation Thursday in the capital, Baghdad.

On the diplomatic front, the interior ministers of Iraq's neighboring countries Thursday pledged their support for Iraq's stability and security.

Officials from Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, and Egypt, meeting in the Jordanian capital Amman, agreed to cooperate in helping Iraq eliminate terrorism.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.