World Bulletin / News Desk
An Iraqi anti-government militia called ‘Men of the Naqshbandi Order’ has condemned the forced expulsion of Iraqi Christians from Mosul city by other rebels as "unacceptable."
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – the self-proclaimed ‘caliph’ of the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – issued an ultimatum on Friday for Christians in the northern city of Mosul to pledge allegiance to his rule, pay tax or leave the city before Saturday noon.
A statement by the Naqshbandi Order group said: "We are opposed to the changing of the country's political and demographic structure, and forced migration."
Men of the Naqshbandi Order are led by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, former vice president of ousted Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath regime, and deputy chairman of his revolutionary council.
An estimated three million Christians live in Mosul. Scores of them have fled the city since ISIL-led forces took over in early June.
In the statement, there was no mention of the ISIL group which has been heavily involved in the latest escalation of sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Iraq since June.
ISIL has taken control of large swathes of predominantly Sunni provinces and is now openly threatening the country's Christian community.
“Men of the Naqshbandi Order”
Fighting against the Shia-led central government in Baghdad, the organization was founded under the leadership of Al-Douri in 2006 after the fall of the Iraqi Ba'ath regime and execution of its leader Saddam Hussein.
The group consists of former officers and privates from Saddam-era Iraqi army; it reportedly acted in concert with ISIL during the seizure of Mosul city in early June where it has control over several neighborhoods.
They possess missiles and other kinds of heavy weaponry from the Saddam Hussein regime which they use in hit-and-run offensives against government forces.
ISIL seizes Mosul monastery in new move against Iraqi Christians
Threats targetting Iraqi Christians in the north have risen since ISIL captured a historic monastery in Mosul city on Monday, expelling clerics in the process.
"Armed groups allied to ISIL have seized Mar Behnam Monastery in the city's southeastern Nimrud district," Mosul Governor's adviser for minorities Duraid Hikmat told Anadolu Agency.
The weekend warning by Al-Baghdadi has compelled many Christian families to flee the city, which holds the country's highest proportion of Assyrian Christians, and take refuge in the Kurdish-controlled Al-Hamdaniya district and nearby cities.
Hikmat also stated that the armed rebels forced priests and monks out of the monastery barefoot before seizing it; the clergymen set off for the Christian town of Qaraqosh.
Since last week, around 1,500 Iraqi Christians have left Mosul for Erbil and northwestern Nineweh province, with some claiming rebels occupied their houses and property as well as cutting off electricity and water supplies.Last Mod: 22 Temmuz 2014, 16:46