MOSUL, Iraq—The jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, which has been systematically attacking—and invading—key cities in Iraq, attacked the St. Etchmiadzin Armenian Church in Iraq’s second largest city, reported the religious leader of the Armenian community of nearby Dohuk, Rev. Massis Shahinyan.
On Tuesday, 65 Armenian families and a priest in Mosul were forced out of the city after ISIS militants raided and took control of Iraq’s second largest city.
ISIS has pounded cities and towns in Iraq and has announced plans to invade Baghdad, in what is becoming a serious threat by the Al Qaeda-backed militant group.
The Archbishop of the Armenian Prelacy reported that 15,000 to 16,000 Armenian Christians remained in the country, primarily in the cities of Baghdad, Basrah, Kirkuk, and Mosul. Evangelical Christians reportedly number between 5,000 and 6,000. They can be found in the northern part of the country, as well as in Baghdad, with a very small number residing in Basrah.
Christian leaders have estimated that as much as 50 percent of the country’s Christian population lives in Baghdad, and 30 to 40 percent live in the north, with the largest Christian communities located in and around Mosul, Erbil, Dohuk, and Kirkuk.
PKK Pledges Safe Passage for Armenians
Leaders of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who are centered in the Qandil Mountains in Northern Iraq, have issued a statement saying that its armed units were prepared to resist attacks by the ISIS forces and will guarantee safe passage to Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and Armenians who live in Northern Iraq and are fleeing their homes.
The leadership of the autonomous Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq is deploying a large number of Peshmerga military units—which form the country’s armed forces—ahead of the ISIS militants. The PKK militants are coordinating efforts with Peshmergas.