12/03/2011, 00.00
IRAQ
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Zakho, Iraqi Islamic extremists attack Christian-owned shops and properties

In a YouTube video images of the assault that took place yesterday in Iraqi Kurdistan, a few kilometres from the border with Turkey. The violence started after Friday prayers triggered by imam’s sermon. Christian personalities: since the Arab Spring, radical Islam is "more dangerous".
Baghdad (AsiaNews) - A group of protesters linked to the Islamic extremist wing, composed mostly of young people, yesterday stormed several Christian-owned shops, a hotel and a beauty parlour. The violence erupted yesterday afternoon in the town of Zakho, about 470 km from Baghdad, Iraqi Kurdistan located a few kilometers from the border with Turkey, and caused the wounding of at least 30 people, including 20 policemen. The fundamentalist wrath was unleashed by the vitriolic sermon of an imam in the local mosque, after which punitive raids were launched across the city. Pro-government Kurdish factions have already responded to the onslaught of the xtremist groups, who burned at least six sites of the Islamic Party of Kurdistan in the city and surrounding areas.

A video posted on YouTube (click here to view it), shows the assault against Christian shops and properties. Local Christian sources interviewed by AsiaNews - anonymous for security reasons - were involved in the raid confirm that "hundreds of people, especially young people" destroyed "at least 13 liquor shops, but the number could reach 30. Witnesses added that "the police did not react" and it is likely that "the assault was pre-planned." The extremist crowd, that carried out the attack in Zakho, then headed for Sumaili - town 15 km from Dohuk, the third largest Kurdish city - where once again exercises owned by Christians and Yazidis were targeted.

In Sumaili, said the source for AsiaNews, there are at least 200 Christian families who are now terrified. The violence continued in the Christian village of Shiuz, where 180 families live, and " the Kurdish police intervened to restore calm only two hours later ". "The extremist crowd - he adds - chanted jihad, or holy war, and anti-Christian slogans."

The Christian community in the region experienced a day of panic and terror at the hands of extremists and abandoned by local authorities. "These events - warns the source - lead to the faithful fleeing their native lands. In Mosul, Kirkuk and Baghdad, the police took steps to protect churches and places of worship. "

Iraqi Kurdistan has long been the center of a bitter conflict between Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen for control of the lands and oil fields that surround it, the dispute also involves the Christian minority, who are victims of violence and vendettas. Iraqi Christian figures confirm that fundamentalist Islam - after the initial auspices related to "Arab Spring", which led to a cautious optimism - has become "much more aggressive and dangerous for non-Muslims." (DS)

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