ISIS seizes Iraq’s largest Christian town

Demonstrators hold signs during a protest against militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group in Arbil, north of Baghdad July 24, 2014.

Demonstrators hold signs during a protest against militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group in Arbil, north of Baghdad July 24, 2014.

Iraq’s largest Christian town, Qaraqosh, was seized by jihadists militants when Kurdish troops withdrew overnight, fleeing residents and Christian clerics told Agence France-Presse Thursday.

“I now know that the towns of Qaraqosh, Tal Kayf, Bartella and Karamlesh have been emptied of their original population and are now under the control of the militants,” Joseph Thomas, the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah, told AFP.

Several residents contacted by AFP confirmed that the entire area in northern Iraq, home to a large part of the country’s Christian community, had fallen to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadist group.

The towns were shelled in the past few days by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants.

The towns are among many in the area where thousands of Christians who were forced to abandon their homes in the main northern city of Mosul last month had found refuge.

Some of them are less than 50 kilometers (30 miles) away from Arbil, the capital of the autonomous region of Kurdistan.

The advance came after the Sunni militants inflicted a humiliating defeat on Kurdish forces in a weekend sweep in the north.

Qaraqosh is an entirely Christian town which lies between Mosul, the jihadists’ main hub in Iraq, and Arbil, the Kurdish region’s capital. It usually has a population of around 50,000.

 
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