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Christians flee after IS advance

August 7, 2014

Thousands of Christians are reported to have fled their homes after jihadist militants extended their gains in northern Iraq, seizing several Christian towns. Many are reportedly fleeing to autonomous Kurdistan.

Image: picture-alliance/abaca

The new gains by "Islamic State" (IS) militants have reportedly prompted thousands of Christians to flee the northern town of Qaraqosh and surrounding areas, residents and Christian clerics said on Thursday.

The takeovers are the latest gains by IS, an al Qaeda splinter group formerly known as ISIS. Over the weekend the Sunni militants dealt a humiliating defeat on Kurdistan's military - the Peshmerga - across the north.

Bishop Joseph Tomas said Qaraqoush and at least four other predominantly Christian villages were in the hands of IS and that Kurdish units, which had protected the area, had also fled. Other priests confirmed the information.

"It's a catastrophe, a tragic situation," Tomas told the AFP news agency, "We call on the UN Security Council to immediately intervene. Tens of thousands of terrified people are being displaced as we speak, it cannot be described."

According to residents, many are fleeing to autonomous Kurdistan.

"Most families are fleeing the town towards the province of Dahuk in Kurdistan," a resident said.

Many thousands of Iraq's Christians have been forced to flee their homes since the IS seized large chunks of the country in a lightning advance in June.

hc/rc (Reuters, AFP, dpa)