Calls for more humanitarian aid have been made as an increasing number of Christians flee their homes in and around the northern city of Mosul due to attacks by Sunni extremists.
“As of today [October 12], the number of Christian families who have fled their homes in Mosul has reached 1,094 [about 5,470 individuals]. They are still fleeing to nearby Christian towns and villages fearing attack by gunmen,” said Jawdat Ismaiel, provincial director of the office of the Ministry of Displacement and Migration.
Ismaiel told IRIN he had appealed to the ministry, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS), and the International Organization for Migration to help with more food and other aid for these families.
“The most needed items are food, blankets and bed rolls… We have distributed 350 items so far and we will distribute at least 200 more tomorrow,” Ismaiel said.
Falah Hilal, head of the IRCS office in nearby Ninevah Province, said his teams had supplied 525 families with aid in two towns.
“These families are going through hard times, with panic, sadness and misery obvious in their faces,” Falah Hilal told IRIN. “They have left their properties and their children are out of school… displacement is still under way.”
Each aid package includes four bed rolls, four blankets, four pillows, sanitary and cooking materials, canned food, a lantern, tomato paste, and clothing for adults and children.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered an investigation “to adopt immediate and necessary measures to enable the Christian families displaced over the past few days to go back home,” a government statement said.
|These families are going through hard times, with panic, sadness and misery obvious in their faces. They have left their properties and their children are out of school… displacement is still under way.|
Ali al-Dabagh, a spokesman for the Iraqi government, on 12 October condemned “criminal groups trying to harm the coexistence and forgiveness principles among Iraqis".
Al-Dabagh accused extremist groups of targeting "an essential segment of Iraqis, Christians with whom we have a long history of brotherhood and coexistence."
In Mosul, an Iraqi army officer who preferred anonymity said: "We will protect Christians and their properties, and hunt down the terrorists behind these criminal acts, so as to help those who have fled their homes to return."
Whilst there is no accurate data on the size of the Christian community, hundreds of thousands are believed to have fled the country since the US-led 2003 invasion. There were around 800,000 Christians in Iraq in 2003, according to Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako.
A police officer in Mosul who preferred anonymity said that since 4 October police had found seven dead bodies of Christians who had been kidnapped and apparently killed execution-style.