08/05/2014, 00.00
IRAQ
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Sinjar, Islamic State militia massacre Yazidis and impose tax on Christians

by Joseph Mahmoud

Dozens of Christian families fled the town north of Mosul, conquered over the weekend by ISIS. At least 70 members of the Muslim minority killed in the assault; Christians were forced to pay 80 dollars each, the cross removed from the church. The Islamists bombed the village of Telkef, killing a young Christian. Kurdish leaders order a counter-offensive, Baghdad offers air support.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - Dozens of Christian families have fled from the town of Sinjar, recently conquered by the militias of the Islamic State (formerly ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). Local witnesses report that the situation is dramatic, people have found shelter in a mountainous area, but "are homeless, desperate and begging for help".

Meanwhile, the Islamists continue the offensive in northern Iraq. Yesterday evening they bombarded the village of Telkef, about 20 miles north of Mosul. During the attack a Christian named Lujaim Hikmat Franci was killed.  The church security was hit as he tried to take shelter together with other young people and the priest.

ISIS leaders have proclaimed all out war in the region and their intent to arrive in Lebanon. Internal sources speak of suicide bombers ready to blow themselves up in different areas of the country of the cedars, so far spared by Islamist violence. Beirut is also home to the Shiite movement Hezbollah, the most important enemy of the Sunni fighters in Syria.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani has ordered the Peshmerga forces to inflict a "fatal blow" on the ISIS militias, who have conquered large parts of the country. The President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) confirms the paramilitary offensive, called to fight "against the enemies of the Kurdish people." At the same time, the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered air support for the Kurdish army, engaged in the offensive to recapture two major cities and many oil plants.

On the ground, the news spilling out from Sinjar (126 km north-west of Mosul) is dramatic; the city is inhabited mostly by Yazidis, Muslim, and a Christian minority formed by Syrian-Orthodox, Catholics and Armenians. There was only one priest in the area, a Syrian Orthodox, who cared for the whole Christian community. According to local sources, in the August 3 attack, ISIS militias have killed at least 70 Yazidis and seized some women; Some witnesses reported that the bodies of the victims were abandoned on the street and "no one dares to touch them."

The majority of the population, including Christians, have fled to the mountains or have sought refuge in neighboring Christian villages of Dayraboun and Vichabour. The Islamists have also imposed the jiza, the fee for the "infidels" on the remaining Christians - those few who wished to remain, to save their homes - which amounts to about $ 80 per person. Finally, local Catholic sources report that the Sunni militiamen have removed the cross from the church destroyed the building burning books and parish registers; now the place of worship has been turned into an office.

In a matter of hours over the weekend the Islamic State militias took possession of Zummar, Sinjar and Wana, located in the province of Nineveh, about forty kilometers north of Mosul. Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul was just the first to fall into Islamist hands, and a caliphate has been set up there with strict Sharia law, forcing 500 thousand Christians and Muslims to flee.

UN estimates report that July was a tragic month for Iraq, particularly for civilians 1,737 people have been killed in acts of terrorism and violence, while 1,978 others were injured and the central government - riven by internal feuds that have so far failed to see the controversial Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki steo down- seems unable to deal with the threat.

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